Last month I got a letter in the mail informing me that our family's financial information had been hacked and stolen. This included Social Security numbers, addresses and birthdays. The leak came from our health insurance company.

Last month I got a letter in the mail informing me that our family's financial information had been hacked and stolen. This included Social Security numbers, addresses and birthdays. The leak came from our health insurance company.

These kinds of hacks, where big companies are careless with our information and there's nothing we can do about it, are infuriating. But my biggest concern with this one is that the hackers stole the Social Security numbers of both my children.

This is something all parents should be concerned about. Children are an irresistible target for scammers. It will likely be years before they apply for their first jobs, bank accounts or credit cards, so it's more likely that suspicious activity will go undetected.

But if a child's identity is stolen, it can wreck the victim's financial life as an adult. When he starts out in life - getting a job, renting an apartment, applying for that first credit card - he'll have to spend hours trying to clean up a mess he didn't make at a time when he should be worrying about building a career and a stable life.

How do you stay on top of your children's credit score?

By law, you're entitled to see and review your credit report for free once a year. This goes for children, too. Everyone should be checking their reports at least once a year. (Important note: The only place you can access the free credit report you are entitled to is through annualcreditreport.com. This site is run jointly by the three major credit-reporting agencies. Ignore any commercials or ads claiming to be the go-to spot.)

Once there, pull one report for each adult and child in your household. It's the only way to be sure you haven't been hacked. Here is what will happen. If you have young children, they shouldn't have credit histories - which means there should not be records on file. When you try to pull a report using your child's Social Security number, the credit agency will send you a note saying there is no record on file. This is a good thing. It means the information hasn't been used to apply for credit.

For tweens and teens, it might be more complicated. If you have made your child a joint cardholder on a family credit card, for instance, she will have a credit record. Pull it and check it carefully. Make sure any account listed is one you and your family have signed up for.

If something fishy does come up, contact the credit reporting agencies via Experian.com, Transunion.com and Equifax.com. These agencies have places on their websites to report errors on credit reports. Just don't let them talk you into buying a product, like credit monitoring, that you don't need. TransUnion and Experian also have question-and-answer sections online with information on what to do if your child's identity has been stolen.

The financial system does have some small protections in place for children. According to Experian, if an identity thief applies for credit using a child's information, the lender will get a note from the agency stating no credit report exists for that person, and possibly an alert that the Social Security number belongs to a minor. Hopefully the lender will make the right call.

Even if your kids' accounts are all clear for now, you have to stay on top of identity theft. A Social Security number is a lifelong identifier. Unlike a credit card number, it can't be canceled or changed. Once that number has been stolen, it can and will be passed around from hacker to hacker. It's only a matter of time until someone uses it.

-Denise Trowbridge is a self-professed money geek who writes about personal finance, banking and insurance for The Columbus Dispatch, bankrate.com and middlepathfinance.com.