Each year, more than 50,000 children in Florida become victims of identity theft with more than $100 million stolen. It’s one of the fastest growing variations of the crime of identity theft because kids generally have clean credit histories and it will be years before the crime is detected. An identity thief can use a child’s name and a Social Security number to open a bank account, obtain credit cards, apply for a loan, or even rent a place to live. A new Florida law requires credit reporting agencies to establish and freeze a credit record for a minor upon request by a parent or guardian. The law also applies to vulnerable adults who have a legal guardian. By freezing your child’s credit, you can effectively block others from using it. Experian, Equifax and TransUnion (the credit reporting agencies) charge a $10 fee to freeze a child’s credit. If a child has already been the victim of identity theft, the fee is waived. Freeze requests must be submitted to each agency in writing and you must submit the child’s complete name and address, a copy of a Social Security card and an official copy of a birth certificate. Identification is also required for the parent requesting the freeze. You can get all the information about how to freeze your child’s credit at http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Consumer-Resources/Consumer-Protection/Protect-Your-Child-s-Identity.
You can also take some simple precautions to keep your child’s personal information out of the hands of fraudsters:
- Keep birth certificates, Social Security cards and other sensitive documents in a secure place, such as a safe deposit box or home safe. Avoid carrying these documents with you.
- Be careful when disposing of documents containing personal information. Shred them before you throw them out.
- Avoid giving out your child’s Social Security number unless it is absolutely necessary. Ask why it is needed, how it will be protected, how it will be used, and if another form of identification would be acceptable.
- Use strong computer passwords. Never write them down or share them.
- Limit the information you share about yourself and your child on social networking sites.
- Use only secure websites when sharing financial information online. A lock icon on the status bar of your browser means your information will be safe when it is transmitted.