Parents are always looking for ways to protect their children from harm, but is child identity theft on their radar?
No existing state law protects children from identity thieves, but now there is proposed legislation aimed at protecting Florida children from identity theft.
Senator Nancy Detert said this is a new crime a lot of parents are not aware of.
More than 50,000 children in Florida have identities stolen each year with more than $100 million fraudulently spent, according to the state.
“We have case after case that we’ve seen of even teachers stealing kids’ credit,” Detert said. “Their social security numbers are out there and often used for school events and other events, so they’re susceptible to this crime.
“Several coalition groups in Florida have joined together to make sure children don’t fall prey to these con artists.
The Keeping IDs Safe Act, or KIDS Act, would allow parents to freeze their children’s credit records so no one can open credit accounts using their information.
At Buchholz High School, where students operate a bank, many teens don’t safeguard their information.
“A lot of kids come in with their friends and they say like personal information to the tellers and they don’t think that their friend would go behind their back and do something to them,” said Amanda Tinker, the Buchholz Student Union branch manager.
Identity thieves typically take a minor’s social security number and pair it with a different name and date of birth. Then, they can use the new identity to obtain government benefits or credit cards.
“Never share your social security number, any pins, passwords…keep all of that private,” said Michele Brothers, a Buchholz High School finance teacher. “Don’t carry your social security number on you.”
Often the only way you learn a child’s ID has been stolen is when an older teen tries to get a credit card or car loan, which can be years after the identity theft.
“Kids aren’t checking their credit reports…adults aren’t…which they probably should be unfortunately,” said Matt Goeckel, a Gainesville Police Department detective. “And it just seems like they’re an easier target.”
Once a child’s identity is stolen it can take years to repair the damage.
The new legislation may be particularly important to children in the foster care system who could be more vulnerable to identity theft.