On Wednesday, the Ohio legislature enacted a bill called the "Child Credit Freeze Law" that allows parents or guardians to request that credit card companies create and freeze credit reports for their children. When an account is frozen, it restricts agencies from releasing information about the owner of that account, in this case, an unwitting child. The freeze stays in place until the child turns 16 or the parent or guardian decide to lift it. This measure makes it far more difficult for identity thieves and impostors to steal the information of children.
This bill was inspired by a crime against an 11-year-old girl whose identity was stolen after her family's information was hacked. The girl's parents were not allowed to request a freeze on their daughter's account, as previous practice only allowed for an individual to freeze his or her own account and not the accounts of a minor, despite any malfeasance.
This helps tackle a very serious problem plaguing the nation's most vulnerable. 1.3 million children have their identities stolen every year. Half of these victims are under 6 years old. Child credit and Social Security numbers are abused by criminals at 51 times the rate of adults. Creative criminals have been known to go through school records, sports programs, and even cemeteries to get the identity information of children, living or deceased. Once they have a Social Security number, they can cobble together a "synthetic identity theft" by mining information from schools or social media including addresses, parents' names, birth dates, etc, to obtain credit cards, loans, government benefits, and driver's licenses. Even when discovered, victims spend years cleaning up the damage.
We want to remind parents to be very careful with their children's identity information. Make sure to lock up their identity documents in a safe place and teach them never to give away their Social Security numbers. And parents should look out for any credit card solicitations addressed to the child and shred them immediately.
A key measure to prevent child identity fraud is to obtain a state-issued ID for your child where offered, such as Washington State. This enrolls the child in the state system and prevents others from obtaining another license in his or her name. For more on how to protect your children from identity theft, look here.
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