Ohio became the latest state to enact a law providing for credit freezes for children to protect against child identity theft. Unfortunately, less than half of the states provide this much needed protection of minors from identity theft. This is important because in recent years, children have been a prime target of identity thieves who, if they are able to get identifying information on a child such as the child’s Social Security number, can open a credit report on behalf of the child and obtain credit in the child’s name. The identity thief never pays back the money accessed through the child’s credit and the child is burdened with a bad credit report that can have a deleterious effect on the child when he or she applies for credit, applies for a job, applies for a scholarship or applies for an apartment. Often the identity theft is not discovered until years after it first happens which makes it more difficult to remedy. A credit freeze is a tremendous tool for fighting identity theft because it prevents an identity thief who even has your Social Security number from accessing your credit report for purposes of establishing credit in your name. Unfortunately, the credit reporting agencies do not generally permit credit freezes for minors except in those states, such as Ohio that have required them to do so by law.
If you live in Ohio and have minor children, you should contact each of the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion in order to freeze your child’s credit. If you live in one of the other states that have similar laws, take advantage of the law, set up a credit report for your children and immediately freeze the account. And while you are at it, you should also freeze your own credit reports as your best precaution against identity theft. For information about how to put a credit freeze on your own credit reports go to the Search This Website section of Scamicide at the top of the page and type in “credit freeze.” If your state does not have such a law, let your state legislators know that you want them to pass such a law. I am proposing such a law in my own home state. Parents should, as much as possible, try to limit the places that have their child’s Social Security number and become familiar with the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act which helps you protect the privacy of your child’s school records and lets you opt out of information sharing by the school with third parties. Finally, the security company AllClear ID (www.allclearid.com) provides a free service called ChildScan which not only searches credit records tied to your child’s Social Security number, but also checks employment records, criminal records and medical records to recognize at an early stage if your child has become a victim of identity theft.