Two days ago, Texas became the latest state to pass a law protecting children from identity theft. The law is patterned after a Maryland law that became effective a year ago and was the first of its kind in the country. The Texas law will permit parents of children under the age of sixteen to freeze their children’s credit reports with the major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. 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. Presently the major credit reporting agencies have not permitted credit reports to be frozen until there is an active credit report. In the circumstances of a child, this would occur only after the child’s credit had been accessed and abused so it truly would be closing the barn door after the horses are out.
Credit freezes are a great way for all of us to protect ourselves from identity theft even in the event that someone has access to your Social Security number. You can find out more about credit freezes in my book “50 Ways to Protect Your Identity in a Digital Age.” You can also find the laws about credit freezes in your own particular state by going to this link: http://www.consumersunion.org/campaigns/learn_more/003484indiv.html