The following is a message from the offices of Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz:
The only thing worse than having maxed-out charge cards and a mortgage in default is when your kids have them. Hard to believe, but the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that no fewer than 8.6 million households had at least one member, age 12 or older, who became a victim of identity theft. Children are, in fact, 51 times more likely to have their identity stolen than adults.
As a member of the Assembly’s Codes Committee, I recently helped to pass legislation (A.7872-A), which would protects a students’ right to privacy. The bill gives parents of students – and students age 18 or older – the opportunity to opt out of the state Education Department’s disclosure of personal identifiable information to a third party. A child’s personal information should never be compromised.
Unfortunately, this growing trend of child identity theft has led to nightmare scenarios that are becoming increasingly problematic to correct. While a 12-year-old child cannot sign a mortgage agreement, child identity theft can occur when a child’s Social Security Number and other personal information is stolen and used by someone to assume that identity.
Because children rarely carry debt at such an early age, and they are essentially “blank slates,” they unfortunately also represent the perfect targets for unscrupulous identity thieves. These false identities can be used to acquire credit cards, set up bank accounts, obtain driver’s licenses and even take out loans for car and house purchases. Oftentimes, because children do not have credit reports, the identity theft is not discovered until significant financial damage has been done.
Parents must remain vigilant in protecting their children from identity theft. The following useful steps can be taken to avoid the devastating effects of child identity theft:
- Keep an eye out for mail addressed to your child, especially credit card offers or debt collection materials;
- Don’t share your child’s Social Security Number unless it’s necessary and ask what it’s needed for and how it will be protected;
- Speak to your child about the importance of keeping their personal information safe;
- Acquire a credit report with your child’s personal information by contacting the three credit agencies below or visitingwww.annualcreditreport.com. You are entitled to a free credit report once a year from each agency. If activity is discovered, immediately report findings with the three credit agencies and file an identity theft report with local police.
Please feel free to share your thoughts with me on this and any other matter. My district office can be reached at (718) 743-4078 and we’re located at 1800 Sheepshead Bay Road. We’re open Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m.to 5:30 p.m. and Fridays until 3 p.m. during the summer. Of course, you may always email me at email@example.com.