PhotoNow that summer is in full-swing, many children are spending extra hours in front of a computer or on their cell phone with Internet access. Unfortunately, this also makes them ideal targets for identity thieves.

“The younger the victim, the more time these thieves have to exploit the child’s identity,” said Sandy Chalmers, Administrator of the Wisconsin Division of Trade and Consumer Protection. “Identity theft against a child can go undetected for years and do a lot of damage to their good name.”

The Office of Privacy Protection, part of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, reminds parents to tell their children not to give out personal information unless it's vitally important and exchanged with a reliable source.

The Federal Trade Commission enacted a rule in 2000 called COPPA, or Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. It requires websites directed at children, or that knowingly collect information from kids under 13, to post a notice of their information collection practices that includes:

·         Types of personal information they collect from kids – for example, name, home address, e-mail address, or hobbies.

·         How the site will use the information – for example, to market to the child who supplied the information, to notify contest winners or to make the information available through a child’s participation in a chat room.

·         Whether personal information is forwarded to advertisers or other third parties.

·         A contact at the site

“In many cases, a site must obtain parental consent before collecting, using, or disclosing personal information about a child,” added Chalmers. “Parents should review the privacy policy on any website aimed at children.”

In addition to talking to children about potential online dangers, the Bureau of Consumer Protection’s Office of Privacy Protection also encourages parents to occasionally check their child’s credit report. If a report exists, that is a red flag, and often the first sign of identity theft.

“The credit reporting agencies do not knowingly maintain credit files on children,” Chalmers explained. “A check of your child’s credit should turn up nothing until the age of 18 unless they are the victim of identity theft or a secondary user on a credit card authorized by a parent.”