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Identity theft is an increasingly common and prominent crime. While most adults are aware of the challenge of protecting themselves against it, few are aware that the main threat can be to their children and others they have a responsibility to protect. Identity theft against adults is a common problem in Maryland and elsewhere, but it does not compare to the threat to those who are minors or have a legal guardianship established over them.

Some reports indicate that while an adult runs a one in 500 risk of being targeted for identity theft, a minor runs a much higher risk of being a victim of identity theft. A typical child runs a one in 10 risk of being an identity theft victim, according to one recent study. As a result, the state of Maryland has instituted changes in their laws to make it easier for parents and other guardians and caretakers to protect those who depend upon them.

Going forward, legal guardians and parents may protect their family members and charges by freezing the dependent's credit. Disabled people and other incapacitated adults with guardians also may run a higher risk than a typical adult, as they were protected under the law as well. Seniors with children who oversee their parents' care may be able to protect their parents as well, depending on the legal nature of the relationship.

By instituting this law, Maryland is on the cutting edge. The law is the first of its kind in the U.S., but it is likely that other states may follow suit. As a result, well-informed parents and those with a guardianship will be better able to protect their charges before there is a problem, rather than waiting until identity theft has happened and then trying to correct it.

Source: CBS Baltimore, "Parents Can Freeze Child's Credit Under Md.'s New Child Identity Theft Law," Jan. 2, 2013

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