Last week, Florida became the latest state to enact a law to help combat identity theft of children’s identities. The new law has the clever acronym of KIDS, which stands for the Keeping ID Safe act. Under this law, parents of minors are able to open a file with each of the major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian and then immediately freeze the accounts so that even if an identity thief managed to obtain the child’s Social Security number and other personal information, the identity thief would not be able to access the credit report for purposes of running up large debts using the credit of the child, who generally does not become aware that his or her identity has been stolen until he or she reaches older teen years when he or she might first apply for a car loan or financial aid for college. Identity theft of children’s identities is a huge national problem. According to a study by the Carnegie Mellon CyLab, children are more than 51 times more likely to become a victim of identity theft than adults.
If you live in one of the states that has a law such as Florida’s, 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. 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. As much as possible try to limit the places that have your 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.