Identity theft is a growing problem, and thankfully there are dozens of services, public service announcements and commercials about how to protect yourself from it. But you might be surprised to learn that adults are not the only ones at risk of identity theft. Anyone with a Social Security number is at risk — and that means our kids, no matter how young, can have their identities stolen.
A child is issued a Social Security number shortly after birth, but recent high-profile cyber breaches, such as the IRS in 2015 and Equifax in 2017, shows that any personal data is at risk of being stolen. For an identity thief, the only thing they need is a Social Security number and a name. From there they can fraudulently open credit lines, apply for government benefits or start a bank account.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, approximately a half a million children have their identity stolen each year, and sadly Colorado ranks 15th in overall identity theft complaints per capita. But to truly put the severity of identity theft in perspective, a recent study found that $16 billion was stolen from 15.4 million U.S. consumers in 2016 alone. In fact, in the past six years, identity thieves have reportedly stolen over $107 billion. That’s a staggering number, and should put everyone — including parents — on high alert.
Today, most adults know to periodically review their credit report for fraudulent activity, or are often notified by their banks and credit card companies if suspicious activity is found. But if a child’s identity is stolen, the fraudulent activity may go undetected until that child grows-up and attempts to open a bank account or apply for a loan. Working with consumer reporting agencies to correct even small inaccuracies can be a painstaking process. Imagine how difficult it would be for a young adult to unwind fraudulent activity that went unnoticed for years.
Currently, 22 states have laws that provide parents some options to protect their child’s credit report, but Colorado isn’t one of them. As our state is already one of the most targeted by identity thieves, I have crafted legislation that will allow Colorado parents the ability to protect their child’s consumer credit report through their 17th birthday. House Bill 18-1129 will authorize a parent or guardian to request a consumer reporting agency place a security freeze on their child’s report. A security freeze would safeguard that report from fraudulent activity that could otherwise be associated with a child’s Social Security number. I am pleased this proposed legislation has the support of both the bankers and the credit reporting agencies, and am for grateful their cooperation in developing this bill.
Every parent wants to give their children the best opportunity to succeed as an adult, and having a clean consumer credit report ensures young adults can be approved for student loans, personal lines of credit, and auto and home loans. Additionally, credit reports are frequently part of applications for a lease and even employment. Simply put, a clean credit report is essential to a successful life.
Identity theft is threat to all of us, and this bill makes much-needed protections available to help prevent children from a credit report nightmare when they reach the age when a clean credit reports matters. HB 1129 is scheduled to be heard in the House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee on Feb. 7 at 1:30 p.m., and public comment is welcome.
State Rep. Polly Lawrence is a Republican from Roxborough Park. She can be reached at [email protected]
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