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Kick off 2016 by protecting your kid’s credit

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Thanks to the Florida Legislature parents can ring in the New Year by making sure their children’s identities are protected. More than 50,000 youngsters are the victims of identity theft each year in Florida accounting for more than $100 million in losses.

A law created in 2014 allowed parents to freeze their children’s credit. Before that law, spearheaded by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, only adults could freeze their credit.

The new year is a great time to be reminded that parents can protect their children’s financial identities.

Credit reporting agencies in Florida will now be required to freeze a child’s credit upon request. That means no one can use that child’s Social Security number for any communications with credit agencies.

No credit cards. No car loans. Nothing.

And all parents have to do is send a written request along with proof of their identity and copies of their child’s Social Security card and birth certificate to each of the three reporting agencies. There is also a $10 fee to freeze credit. Though, if a child has already been the victim of identity theft, the fee is waived.

The agencies each have established a separate mailing address for freezing credit.

Equifax Security Freeze

P.O. Box 105788

Atlanta, GA 30348

Experian Security Freeze

P.O. Box 9554

Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion Protected Consumer Freeze

P.O. Box 380

Woodlyn, PA 19094

There are other ways parents can ensure their child’s identity is protected. Documents with sensitive information such as birth certificates and Social Security cards should be kept in a secure location. Parents should never give out their child’s Social Security number unless it is absolutely necessary. Before providing it make sure to know why it’s needed, whether or not another form of identification would be acceptable, and how the information will be protected.

Other safeguards can be used to protect all of your families sensitive information including using strong passwords on computers and never sharing it or writing it down, shredding documents containing sensitive information, and using only secure websites when sharing financial information.

If a child has already been a victim of identity theft it should be reported first to the local police department. The report can be used to remove harmful information from your child’s credit.

Report the theft to the credit reporting agencies and ask that a fraud alert be placed on your child’s credit. Parent’s should also pull their child’s credit to review any fraudulent information and ask that those items be removed.

And, for 2016, parents should then freeze their child’s credit to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

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Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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