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Legislative News and Views - Rep. John Petersburg (R)

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Thirty years ago, few of us worried about identity theft. But in today's world, where many of us utilize our phones or computers to organize our lives, identity theft is on the rise. And the biggest increase for this crime is happening on children.


It's easy to understand why. How often does a 7-year-old use a Social Security number? Most parents don't think twice about monitoring their children's identities. Because of this, criminals are targeting children's identification, meaning the probability of parent discovery is low.


Once the cyber thief has a child's social security number, he could use it in any number of ways. If the person is an illegal immigrant, he could obtain false ID's for employment. A person could also secure a credit card and make tens of thousands of dollars in purchases. Years later, with the damage already done, the child's credit history is shot which limits her ability to secure a student loan, find a place to live, or get a credit card of her own.


To address this growing concern, I am sponsoring legislation that would give parents the right to obtain a security freeze for their children.


The bill gives parents the opportunity to acquire a personal identification number from a consumer reporting agency for their minor child, giving them more control over who is able to access a credit check on their kids.


22 states have enacted similar legislation, and with the growing amount of cyber theft occurring in America today, I believe in allowing parents to make this proactive decision if they choose.


A recent report on child identity theft found that the youngest victim was five months old, and that more than 300 victims were under the age of five. The largest fraud committed was against a 16-year-old girl, at $725,000. These statistics show that identify thieves are targeting children due to the value of unused Social Security numbers, and those numbers are expected to rise.


As they reach adulthood, we want all of our children on the path to success. Discovering that their credit history may have been abused for years without anyone's knowledge is not a situation teenagers want to face, and I'm hopeful this legislation will better protect their identity in the years to come.