Child identity theft has been around for years, but from its earliest cases, it tended to involve a relative or friend of the family who’d fraudulently “borrowed” a child’s blank slate. Sadly, in many of the instances, the thief had every good intention of paying back the money he’d taken out in the child’s name, only to find that the same behaviors that caused his money troubles in the first place prevented him from resolving it later.
Even more upsetting was the all-too-common response: family members would often pressure the child’s immediate family to “cover up” the crime and take on that debt themselves in order to prevent criminal charges from being brought against the perpetrator. Now, child identity theft has taken on a whole new fearsome position as one of the fastest growing forms of the crime. And it’s no longer limited to just people close to the victim.
Hackers and organized identity thieves know the value of an unblemished credit report, and they go to great lengths to gather up as many children’s identities as possible. Large-scale data breaches of children’s information have taken place through schools, medical offices, even extracurricular activities, all places where parents have typically been required to submit a lot of personal information on their kids.
But one state is working to protect children’s identities before serious problems arise. Kentucky’s House Majority Caucus Chair Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris, has initiated a bill that will help put some power of protection in parents’ hands, giving them the ability to place alerts and freezes on their minor children’s Social Security numbers, and therefore their credit reports. This bill will also extend to the ability to protect individuals who are in some way incapacitated, regardless of their age.
While only twenty-two states currently have these protections in place, in Kentucky’s bill and in most of those states that have existing legislation there has to already be a reason for concern. That means the alert or freeze isn’t enacted unless there has already been an instance of fraud against the child’s Social Security number. By then, it may very well be too late; someone already has the data and is using it to commit fraud. Since there are vendors who overlook the freeze on a credit report when a customer fills out an application for a new line of credit, parents must still be vigilant about monitoring their children’s identities for any signs of something out of the ordinary.
Signs that someone is already using your child’s identity can include bills or collections notices coming in your child’s name, medical bills or statements for treatments your child didn’t receive, or statements of employment or government benefits. You also have cause for alarm if your child is ever turned down for benefits, for a job, or for enlistment in the military due to bad credit.