New law safeguards children against ID theft

A new Indiana law aims to protect children against identity theft by allowing their parents to lock down their credit reports.

Adults already could place a “security freeze” on their credit reports with the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Doing so prevents identity thieves, or anyone, from opening up a line of credit in the person’s name.

The new law allows parents to register their children who are 16 years old and younger. It also covers legal guardians of mentally disabled adults.

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“It allows parents to be proactive where they can actually go out and put this freeze on their child’s credit report,” said Terry Tolliver, deputy director of the consumer protection division of the attorney general’s office.

Children are targeted by identity thieves because years could pass before anyone learns of the theft, Tolliver said. They provide personal information when they sign up for school, sports programs and other activities. Some parents might keep their children’s Social Security cards in a wallet or purse.

“It could be 10 years down the road before you find out that your child is a victim of identity theft,” he said. “What this does is at least allow some protection so those that are proactive can put this out there and protect themselves early on.”

The attorney general’s office has received 18 complaints since 2011 alleging identity fraud against children. Only six were substantiated.

Often, the fraud involves people who are estranged parents or relatives, Tolliver said. All but one of the substantiated complaints since 2011 involved a family member.

A cybersecurity expert said parents should not consider identity theft against children a major threat.

“If I’m going to steal someone’s information, I want to find someone who’s going to have a good credit record,” said Fred Cate, former director of Indiana University’s Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research. “I don’t want to get someone who has no credit record like a child.”

The online security freeze is free for most people, though credit service bureaus could charge parents a $5 fee. To register, visit the attorney general’s website.

Identity theft is becoming more common as more institutions rely on personal data. A hacker breached Butler University’s system in May, possibly stealing information on 163,000 students, faculty, staff, alumni and even applicants.

Call Star reporter Steph Solis at (317) 444-6494. Follow her on Twitter: @stephmsolis.

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