In an effort to better protect a major target for identity thieves and other types of fraud, a law in Maryland designed to curb these crimes against children recently went into effect.
Maryland’s childhood identity theft protection law, which allows parents to freeze their kids’ credit preemptively, went into action at the start of the new year, and experts hope that the change will allow more kids to avoid the harmful effects of this crime. In the past, it was impossible for parents to protect their children because credit bureaus wouldn’t allow anyone to freeze credit for anyone who didn’t yet have a credit history.
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This obviously posed an interesting and confounding problem: Their kids aren’t supposed to have credit histories, and only would do so if an identity thief used their personal information — such as a name, Social Security number, date of birth, and so forth — to open a fraudulent account. Of course, there was also little way for parents to know whether that was the case, since most wouldn’t think to actually order copies of their children’s credit reports, since they shouldn’t exist to begin with. In most cases, someone under the age of 16 who has a credit report in their own name his likely been victimized by identity theft.
Maryland’s law is the first of its kind to be passed anywhere in the country.
“Too many children are victimized by relatives and other individuals who attempt to exploit a child’s clean credit history to obtain a credit card, mobile phone or utility account,” said Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler in a press release. “As a result, children end up having to deal with a blemished credit record once they are old enough to seek credit on their own.”
Parents and guardians will not see their children automatically covered by the credit freeze, however they will have to opt in and file requests with each of the credit bureaus to have the action take effect, the report said. They will also need to provide proof of identification for the child they want to protect.
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Identity thieves often target children for this type of crime because it may take years or even decades before their crimes are discovered. Identity thieves have been known to use the identities of children as young as newborns to commit fraud.
Image: Linda Åslund, via Flickr