Maryland State Delegate Craig Zucker is behind a new state law that just went into effect designed to protect a child from identity theft. "It will be the first time parents or guardians can proactively contact any of the three credit agencies and freeze their child or dependent information to protect against identity theft," Zucker said. By freezing a child's credit, crooks are out of luck.
Not quite Craig, but A for effort. I mean that, and I hope you follow through and finish what you started.
The Associated Press reported back in April, "Under current Maryland law, credit agencies must place a security freeze on the credit of anyone who requests it. However, they can refuse to lock the credit of those who do not have a pre-existing credit report. That's a problem for children. If they have a credit report, it likely means they're already a victim of fraud." Which is kind of exactly where we are today. Not much has changed.
Unless all three bureaus offer a proactive credit freeze then the bill fails, and it fails further if ALL children can't get one, not just Maryland kids.
I contacted all three credit bureaus and only Experian offers a credit freeze for children and only if your child is a victim, no matter what state you live in. First go to Experians Credit Freeze Center then click "Add A Security Freeze," then Continue, then "Place a Security Freeze on a Minor's Credit File."
As of this writing, a phone call to Equifax at 1-800-603-9430 (a phone number only available by initiating a chat session) reveals the customer service agents have no knowledge of the Maryland Child Identity Lock bill, and will only freeze credit if the child is currently a victim of identity theft. Once a credit report is generated for a minor the damage is done and then a credit report can be frozen.
Transunion was a little more helpful in that they offer what they call a "Minor Supression" by going online, seeking out "child identity theft," then calling 800-680-7289. The operator will then open a case and forward you to the fraud department. You should make sure to get a "Minor Supression File Number" on each child and then send in the required documentation to the address they provide. But no credit freeze.
Being in the trenches and working with child identity theft victims I can tell you first hand that child identity theft is extremely damaging to a child's future. Most kids who are victimized have a hard time getting started as adults at the age of 18, when their credit makes them look like deadbeats. Their reputation is already damaged and getting credit, getting into schools or getting a job becomes 100 times harder than it already is.
The credit bureaus are in the best position to prevent child identity theft by simply tweaking their systems to allow a credit freeze before the child is a victim of identity theft.
We parents aren't asking a lot. We just want to do our jobs and protect our children from what harm can come to our kids.
Robert Siciliano is personal security and identity theft expert and speaker. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock'em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.