New 2019 Law Protects Minnesota Minors From Identity Theft
Several new laws took effect in Minnesota as of January 1, 2019; one aimed at protecting your children’s credit long before they can utilize it for themselves.
Minnesota Children’s Credit Could Be at Risk
In 2017, an estimated more than one million children became victims of identity theft across the United States. The figure constitutes nearly two percent of all minors in the US, so while it has yet to develop into a major issue, trends appear to be moving that way. The fact that this fraud translated into nearly $2.6 billion is of particular concern.
According to the 2017 figures, nearly two-thirds of the children affected were under the age of seven. Why so young? Experts believe that the credit histories of the very young are appealing to thieves because they very often have little to no information tied to them. In addition, there’s a larger time gap in play before the child turns eighteen and begins using credit on their own, allowing thieves to do a lot of damage before discovery of the issue.
Could Your Child Be at Risk?
The decision to use randomized social security numbers in 2011 may have led to a higher risk of synthetic identity theft. Synthetic identity theft has been identified as a situation in which thieves combine real personal information with other social security numbers. As a result, your child’s social security number may already have a false credit history attached.
Another threat to your child’s personal information exists in the form of data breaches. Online breaches access child information in the same way as adult information, and with the increasing number of opportunities to store your child’s information online for insurance, tax, medical and other purposes, the risk of a data breach is significant. Recent data breaches affected 39% of minors between 2016 and 2017.
Finally, fraud associated with your child’s information is more likely to happen with someone you know – perhaps a friend, family member, or other acquaintance. In fact, as many as 60% of child fraud victims know the perpetrator. These cases are particularly dangerous, because people that know you often have access to the correct address, phone number, and other personal information to make the charges seem much more legitimate. Fraud claims in these cases are similarly hard to pursue as it often appears the accounts are legitimate.
How Can You Prevent Fraud?
The recent Minnesota bill allows parents to freeze their children’s credit proactively, so consider doing this, especially if your child may be at risk due to any factor mentioned above. Consider freezing credit until at least the age of sixteen and ensure that you do not release the PIN to any acquaintances or family members. However, remember that you must lift the freeze for your child to apply for credit.
In addition, reduce the instances in which you provide your child’s information. Often, entities that request a social security number may not need it to proceed. Avoid unknowingly providing friends and family members with the information by locking the information away as much as possible. Speak with your children to ensure they aren’t sharing unnecessary information with anyone, including relatives.
Finally, keep an eye out for any warning signs someone else may be attempting to access your child’s credit or identity. Signs such as a sudden appearance of credit card offers or other adult-like transaction requests in your mailbox could indicate your child’s identity has been compromised. Other requests such as jury summons or tax offers could be a red flag.
The new Minnesota law offers parents the opportunity to minimize impact on their children’s credit histories. However, be sure you are taking care to safeguard your child’s other important information to prevent risk to their financial future.