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SALT LAKE CITY — Jennifer Andrushko didn't know what to think when government records listed her 3-year-old son as an employee at a clothing store.
While checking on her husband's unemployment eligibility at the Utah Department of Workforce Services two years ago, the Harrisville mother learned an undocumented immigrant had been using her son's Social Security number five years before he was born.
"As you can imagine, I was very shocked and surprised," she said. "I didn't think this would ever happen to me or my child."
Andrushko said she felt helpless and didn't know where to turn.
- Protect your child's Social Security Numbe by keeping it private. If you absolutely must provide your child's Social Security Number, be sure to ask how the information will be handled, and when it will be discarded.
- Notice mailed offers of pre-approved credit to your child, which could indicate someone has established a credit history in your child's name.
- Be sensitive to the information you or your child place on the internet. Thieves and sexual predators use social networking sites to profile their victims, so be careful about providing your name or child's name, phone number, home address and other information online.
- Shred sensitive documents containing personal identifying information such as Social Security Numbers, phone numbers, names, addresses, account numbers, medical records and school records before discarding.
The Utah Attorney General's Office hopes a new program it launched Tuesday will prevent situations like the Andrushkos'.
The Child Identity Protection program offers a secure online site, www.idtheft.utah.gov, where parents and guardians can register their children for protection from identity theft at no cost.
"We've done a lot to protect adults. Identity thieves know that, so they come after these little ones," said Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, surrounded by now 5-year-old Carter Andrushko and several other children.
The attorney general's office worked with TransUnion, one of the three national credit reporting companies, to create the program.
"These steps really enable us and the state of Utah to protect minors to a degree never before available," said Steve Katz, TransUnion director of consumer services.
Once enrolled, TransUnion adds the child's Social Security number to a database it uses to alert creditors about potential fraud risk when requests for credit reports are received. It remains there until the child reaches 17.
Also, if TransUnion determines that a credit file containing both the child's Social Security number and name has been created, it purges the file of any fraudulent information and doesn't allow access until the child's 17th birthday.
After finding out Carter's identity had been stolen, Andrushko initially didn't know where to turn. She finally contacted her state senator who put her in touch with the attorney general's office. She said she was thankful that her husband, Matt, was out of work for a while because they never would have known.
"I knew it could be quite damaging to him later in life," she said, adding she hopes parents will use the program so they don't have to go through the same ordeal.