If you think protecting your credit is something only adults need to worry about, think again. Experts say one in 10 children is now the victim of identity theft.

Identity thieves ferret out kids’ social security numbers on tax forms accessed by hacking home computers, and they also target hospitals, child-welfare agencies and schools.

Overall, the FTC says that in the past three years, there have been 57,000 cases of child identity theft reported to the agency, and identity theft protection company All Clear ID estimates one in 10 American children have been victims. And parents often have no idea until it’s been going on for years.

“A parent will typically find out when their child is moving into adulthood,” said Bo Holland, CEO of All Clear ID. “When they are about to go to college, they apply for that first loan and, boom, they get denied.”

“They’ll use your child’s Social Security number with a different name and a different birth date,” he explained, adding that if you try to pull your child’s report, you’ll get a “file not found” error and think all is well.

So how can you protect your little ones? Install anti-virus software on your computers, tell your kids to never reveal their social security numbers without your permission, and periodically check your children’s credit reports.

[ABC News]