As more and more children are becoming victims of identity theft, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam is taking steps through legislation that would enable parents to combat the growing crime. If passed, Florida will only be the second to have such legislation after Maryland, which passed it last year.
The legislation would require the nation’s three consumer reporting agencies to allow parents or guardians to open a credit record for their child and freeze it, preventing others from using that child’s personal information to open fraudulent accounts, Putnam announced at a press conference Wednesday. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Nancy Detert and Rep. Heather Dawes Fitzenhagen.
During the press conference, Putnam was surrounded by a group of children as he discussed the increasing instances of identity theft. “Studies indicate that one out of every 10 children is a victim of identity theft. That means one of these children in front of you will be a victim,” he said.
Putnam’s office released the following statements made during the announcement:
Sen. Detert talked about the prevalence of child identity theft and why she wanted to sponsor this legislation. “These children are going to have it tough enough without having a bad credit history,” she said. She also noted there is a procedure in place for adults to freeze their own credit history, but nothing to protect children.
Rep. Fitzenhagen said this legislation is so important because 99 percent of child identity theft is not detected. “There are all kinds of devious methods they are using to hurt Florida’s children,” she said. “We want to put a stop to it.”
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Col. James Previtera spoke about recent cases his agency has been investigating, including one child whose identity was stolen just after birth and another child whose parent is a sheriff’s deputy. “Identity theft can be just as devastating to a victim as an assault, and in many ways, it talked longer to recover,” he said.
Jack Levine, a statewide child advocate and founder of 4Generations Institute, said that financial protection is just one more way to make sure Florida’s children are safe. “If we don’t protect a child financially, their futures are hampered. This is one example of how we can do the right thing – protect and preserve each child’s future.”