WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Parents in North Carolina will soon be able to help protect their children from identity theft.
A new bill that takes effect January 1, 2016 will allow parents and guardians the ability to freeze the credit reports of all children under 16 years of age.
According to the NC Department of Justice, major credit bureaus have said they could not freeze credit reports for minors in the past who had not yet established any credit. The new law, however, requires credit bureaus to create and freeze a child's credit report upon request of a parent or guardian.
"A security freeze locks down your credit report to keep identity thieves from opening accounts and racking up debts in your name," Attorney General Roy Cooper said. "ID theft can strike victims of any age and now parents can protect their kids' credit from the very beginning."
Starting January 1:
- Request a security freeze for your child under age 16 by mail, by telephone, or online. Visit ncdoj.gov/creditfreeze for contact information.
- To lift a freeze permanently or temporarily, use the PIN or password established when setting up the freeze.
- It may cost up to $5 per credit bureau to place or lift a freeze on a child’s credit.
- A freeze is free if the child already has a credit report or has been a victim of identity theft.
North Carolina adults can freeze their credit reports for free online with each of the three major credit bureaus, with information available at ncdoj.gov. Once your credit is frozen, you can thaw it when needed to take out credit yourself.
John Nusselroade, the Principal and Managing Director of Tilia Fiduciary Partners, warned of multiple ways you child could fall victim to identity theft, especially with the growing popularity of social media.
"When I was growing up in school, the worst thing that could be stolen from me is my lunch money. Today, kids with credit cards are a disaster waiting to happen, because they're not careful with those kids of things, they don't understand the ramifications of having a loss," Nusselroade explained.
He warned that any time your children participate in online quizzes, someone is collecting all of that information they put in. Then using it to build a profile of your child's interests and likes, which could lead to hacking into deeper information.
Nusselroade encouraged parents to use teaching moments to educate their kids about being safe with their personal information.
"Encourage them to use cash—the old fashioned way. Encourage them to hold onto their credit card as closely as they probably do their smart phone, and to not tell anyone their password or those types of things," Nusselroade said while he explained the importance of talking to your kids about information safety, especially if they have a credit card.
Nusselroade said he would be weary of giving your child a credit card at too young of an age. If the criminals get into their credit, then it can lead to the parents' finances as well.
"And the parents are at risk too, because if you think about it, a kid under 16, let alone 18 probably, can't get their own credit card, so they're borrowing some of the parent's financial information at the same time. So it's a nice idea, but it's a bad idea," said Nusselroade of giving a child a credit card at too young of an age.