PORTLAND -- As a mom, Kelly Bejelly thinks about her toddler son's future-- where he'll go to school, his financial stability and his reputation, things she's now trying to protect from the latest trend in fraud -- child identity theft.
"It's where someone fraudulently uses their social security number to buy a car, a house, utilities you name it," said Bejelly, a regional organizer for Identity Guard's movement to end child ID theft.
Her company is one of several that provide child ID theft proctection services. An overall guide is provided by the non-profit Identity Theft Rescource Center.
"It's a lot like adult identity theft, just much harder to discover and deal with," she said.
In many cases, parents may not realize their child's ID has been compromised, until their son or daughter is old enough to apply for a credit card or school loan.
"(Victims) are not financially responsible for it, but they're still financially punished for this theft," said Bejelly.
So how do you protect your child's identity? Bejelly said the most critical thing a parent can do is protect their child's social security number.
"I even do that at the doctors office," said Bejelly. "When they ask for your social security number, I just don't put it down."
Bejelly said kids identities get stolen in the same way adult identities get stolen-- by people breaking into file systems and computers. She said there are also signs that may indicate that your child's identity has already been compromised.
"Parents will often find out when their kid gets a credit card offer in the mail... one mom got a notice that her 12-year-old son's tax returns had been filed."
"It's just sad that people are using children this way," Bejelly said.