Check your kid’s credit to avoid becoming part of this $540M fraud

Back to school for parents means to-do lists and the re-entry of routine into the home. Another item for parents to add to their to-do list is to check their child’s credit score.

Starting in September, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act will grant parents safeguards when it comes to their children’s credit. At no cost, parents will be able to check on and freeze credit files bearing their child’s name by using the three major credit reporting bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

See also: Nine ways you can raise your credit score this year

As identity theft schemes grow more elaborate and continue to wreak havoc on Americans — 16.7 million were victims in 2017 — thieves have looked to the identities of minors as their latest prey. The amount of theft due to fraud against children totaled $2.6 billion in 2017, according to a study conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research and reported by CNBC. And for the families affected, these thefts cost them $540 million in out-of-pocket costs.

Due to the young age of the victims at the time of the act, this insidious crime has the ability to go undetected for years and might only be discovered when the minor applies for a student loan or credit card. In 2017, Experian estimated that roughly 25 percent of children will become victims of identity fraud or theft before they turn 18.

See also: How to Set Yourself Up for a Perfect Credit Score

Regardless of age, this type of theft could result in financial and legal entanglement for families for the next seven years, according to Experian.

To prevent your child from joining the more than 1 million children who were victims of identity theft in 2017, as reported by CNBC, here’s how to be proactive and maintain your child’s pristine credit score:

Prevention and Protection

Parents should guard their child’s Social Security number as strongly as they do their own.

When giving out your child’s Social Security number is non-negotiable, like enrolling in school, brush up on the school’s privacy policies to ensure safety.

Consider investing in a secure document box or locked filing cabinet to store your child’s personal documents like their birth certificate and Social Security card. This includes keeping your child’s information out of the hands of family and friends: About 60 percent of child fraud victims personally know the perpetrator.

Good News: Your Credit Score Could Be Getting a Boost — Here’s Why

Recognize the Warning Signs

It might be easy to slough off and attribute a jury duty summons or past-due bill notice addressed to your child as an error, but those could be warning signs of identity theft.

Should suspicious mail start to arrive, like preapproved credit cards addressed to your child, it might be time to spring into action.

An immediate red flag could be the denial of an account opening in your child’s name due to poor credit history.

What to Do When Child Identity Theft Strikes

Without haste, contact each of three major credit reporting bureaus to explain that the identity theft victim is a minor.

Visit the government’s identity theft website to create an identity theft report and to get more information about how to go about repairing a minor’s credit.

Click through to read more about how to raise your credit score by 100 points (almost) overnight.

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This article originally appeared on Check Your Kid’s Credit to Avoid Becoming Part of This $540M Fraud