The other day, our advertising sales representative Todd Britt was telling me about a story he had watched on Fox 5 in Atlanta recently involving a topic not given much coverage or thought.
In fact, the March 2 story devoted only two minutes of video time and three paragraphs on their website to the issue of child identity theft, something that if gone unchecked can have long-ranging consequences for our youth.
Now, I’m not a parent myself so I don’t live in constant dread of what evils in the world might one day try to strike out and hurt my child.
I want a kid one day, and when that day comes I’m sure I will be just as protective as a father should be when it comes to ensuring my children are safe.
What I have come to learn as an adult, and what many people forget is that there are some problems we can solve and others we can’t.
For instance, there is no easy solution to fixing the nation’s love affair with carbon-based fuels, leaving generations to come to figure out how to eliminate the problems associated with climate change, while at the same time trying out new technologies. The market might sort that out long before any future progenies of mine will be driving, or might not. Time will tell on that score.
The bigger issues I can do my part to solve of course by promoting positive steps in the right direction like encouraging you, dear reader, to buy more fuel efficient cars or hybrids, heck even electric cars if you aren’t planning on driving long distances during your daily commute. Planting more trees also helps, as another long term solution to a bigger problem.
However, this is particular issue of child identity theft has been going on long enough that I feel the public as a whole should do something about it.
First off, how are people using children’s identities getting away with it?
You would think that a child’s social security number would immediately be flagged by a credit agency for not being old enough to hold a job, much less pay back a bill for a credit card or loan.
Instead, children are 51 times more likely to be the victims of identity theft according to the Fox 5 report.
The only red flags that could pop up are collections calls for kids, Internal Revenue Service notices or strange mail coming under the names of a son or daughter.
That’s a big problem.
Now it’s not to say that there aren’t youth working out there that by the time they turn 18 have jobs or developed some form of income that might make them eligible for a credit card.
In fact, according to Department of Labor statistics for Georgia alone, some 80 percent of Georgia students work sometime during high school.
But before that, when kids are just going to school or running around on the playground with friends, they know nothing more about finances or credit scores than many of us as adults do.
So why hasn’t some kind of protections been put into place to restrict credit from being extended in the names of children?
The states have done at least one thing by providing legislation allowing credit to be frozen, but the laws vary from state to state.
For instance, in the neighboring state of Alabama it allows for any consumer to have their credit frozen, while in Arizona it only allows for “protected persons” meaning someone under 16 at the time of the request or someone’s legal guardian for those who have been incapacitated, for instance.
Georgia parents can freeze their children’s credit under the age of 16, and those who are guardians or conservators can do so as well. So if parents would take the initiative to contact the three credit major credit reporting agencies Experian, TransUnion and Equifax before problems occur, they can save time and money by blocking access to criminals for a child’s credit.
Remember, it’s important to contact all three of the credit reporting agencies because each agency can have differing reports for an individual. Problems might show up on one report, while another they might.
After all, without taking proactive measures it can take time and money to fix problems with credit, which can mean long delays for those who are discovering credit issues, whether it be a child or an adult.
It can be a living nightmare to restore credit for anyone once it has been breached by criminal activity.
Parents have to take a proactive role in ensuring their children’s future credit can be protected, just like with any threat out there which could potentially harm the sons and daughters of the world.
If we’re going to leave the next generations with global problems to have to solve, the least we can do is try our best to ensure they have protections for their individual future.