In order to combat the nation-wide issue of child identity theft, the state of Minnesota issued a law allowing parents to freeze the credit accounts of children under 16 years of age.
Now, parents have the opportunity to freeze their children's credit free of charge. It was estimated that over one million children had their identities stolen in 2017 alone.
This is particularly concerning since many child identity thefts aren't discovered until the child turns 18.
"They might be 10. Someone steals their identity somehow, opens a credit card, racks up debt; they might be 18, it might be eight years before it catches up to them, and the thief is long gone,” said Elijah Kovar of Great Waters Financial.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, however, the United States Congress beat the state to the punch.
The new federal law was established back in September as antsy Minnesotans waited for state legislation to pass.
This law was a direct result from the Equifax security breach in 2017, where millions of people had their personal information exposed. This sensitive information includes a person's address, their income, social security number, and more, whether they pay income tax, sales tax, payroll taxes, and more. It's estimated that one-third of the nation's revenue comes from payroll taxes alone.
But children aren't the only victims of identity theft. In 2016, almost 15.4 million consumers lost an estimated $16 billion as a result of identity theft.
This information is especially easy to steal during the holidays. Shoppers are at an increased risk thanks to online shopping, package interference, the surge of receipts, and more. Detectives are suggesting that people put a hold on their accounts as soon as they see a possible threat to their credit data or information.
Detective Carlos Verdoni, of the Sarasota County in Florida, claims that there are a few ways you can help protect yourself from identity theft after the holidays and even throughout the year.
"Make sure that the website you are buying from is a secure, legit site. When shopping in person he said to be aware of people who are asking you for too much information like a zip code or your card's three digit number, they already received that information from swiping the card," Verdoni claims in an interview with ABC 7 Digital Media.
"TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian usually give you a free check of your credit once a year. So if you split them up into every four months you can use TransUnion in the beginning, Equifax in the middle, and Experian in the end and then that gives you three different checks for free in one year," Verdoni added. "As long as you check your credit report and look at the stuff that's out there, what you may have tried to purchase or what people are trying to purchase in your name, it'll show up on your credit report."
When you finally get those holiday credit card bills this month, be sure to read it over carefully for any incorrect transactions, especially small ones. These can be easy to overlook, but small transactions, often under $5, are test purchases by thieves who want the green light to make larger purchases in the future.
You should also ensure that your personal information is secure after traveling for the holidays. Drivers licenses, passports, and even social security cards are all at-risk as people move across the country to visit loved ones and friends. This means that the almost 214 million licensed drivers have to pay especially close attention to their wallets as they head back home.
Thanks to states, like Minnesota, however, at least now we have more safety precautions against identity theft in our children.