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Schumer Takes On Child Identity Thieves

Senator Chuck Schumer
WAMC
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Senator Charles Schumer is working to counter what he calls the growing trend of child identity theft. The New York Democrat is proposing legislation that would protect kids until they turn 18.

Schumer says children under 18 are easy targets. Because their credit reports are rarely monitored, the theft of a child’s identity could go undetected for years and it’s not until a child is ready to open a line of credit at the bank or set up a joint credit card with a parent that the theft is discovered.   "As you can imagine, this type of ID theft can have devastating long-term financial repercussions for our children, since its very different to reset a credit history once it's been created.”

He's proposing a measure that would automatically freeze credit reports for children under 18 until the credit agency confirms that a parent is the one requesting the action and wishes to un-freeze the credit of their minor.    "Parents shouldn't have to go out of their way to protect their children's financial future, and as you can imagine, there are huge numbers of children at risk here. We estimate 1.8 million under 18; 235,000 in the Capital Region; 227,000 Central New York; 261,000 Rochester-Finger Lakes; 281,000 Western New York; 151,000 Southern Tier; 546,000 Hudson Valley; 111,000 in the North Country."

The legislation would bar credit companies from opening accounts for children unless the account openers prove they're the child's parent or guardian.    Larry Snyder is Bay Path University's cybersecurity program director:     "For these younger folks who have no credit history, the biggest danger right now when their information is stolen, is that information might be used for fraudulent purposes like getting government benefits or providing false information of law enforcement. So it's not necessarily only a credit risk, which is a substantial portion, but also that that information that's being used, their Social Security number, might get tied to a criminal record or health benefits being used by a third party."

Snyder adds “The difficult part is that everybody’s using that social security number for children as an identifier. So when you apply for health care, they want your children’s social security numbers. When you enroll them in school, they’re asking for it. Even when you’re filing your taxes, if you’re doing it with a third party, you have to provide that. So it’s really important for parents to try to minimize the number of people that they’re sharing that with. Then, inquire as to what protection those individuals are putting around that information.”

Schumer says many young people learn that their identities were stolen long after the fact, when they check their credit reports for the first time and realize they're blemished. 

He plans to introduce the proposal in the Senate next week.

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