The South Carolina House gave its final approval Wednesday to a bill to protect children from identity theft by allowing their parents to put security freezes on their children's credit.
Right now, there's no way to do that because, since children don't have credit, they don't have credit reports on which to put a security freeze. Under the bill, a parent would contact the three credit reporting agencies, which would create a file for the child and then put a security freeze on that file.
Juliana Harris, spokesperson for the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs, says, "A security freeze is really a great tool and it basically puts the credit report on lockdown. So you're the only person that's able to access your credit report. That means creditors wouldn't be able to issue credit in your name without you thawing or lifting the freeze."
Sen. Katrina Shealy introduced the bill last year after a hacker got into the state Department of Revenue's computers and stole the private information of millions of state taxpayers. Parents then realized that their children were also vulnerable to ID theft.
"Their Social Security numbers are on their parents' income tax returns, so somebody could steal their Social Security number and use it for 18 years. And they don't know it until they go buy a car or whatever and then they find out all these years somebody's been using their Social Security number and run up their credit, had bad credit," Sen. Shealy says.
The state Senate passed the bill last year, but it got stuck in the House in a dispute over whether there would be a fee for placing the security freeze. The Senate version had no fee, the House changed it to a $5 fee, and then changed it again to remove the fee. The bill has to go back to the Senate for its final approval, since the House changed the bill. If senators go along the bill goes to the governor's desk.
The bill would also allow guardians to place security freezes on the names of vulnerable adults.
The Department of Consumer Affairs has a step-by-step guide to placing a security freeze, and lifting or thawing it, along with the
contact information for the three credit reporting agencies here:
http://www.consumer.sc.gov/Documents/PUBLICATIONS/Identity Theft information/How_to_Place_Freeze_110212.pdf