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MADISON, Wi. – Parents have enough to worry about when it
comes to their kids without thinking about stolen social security numbers and
out of control credit scores.
The Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer
Protection (DATCP) hasn’t heard any reports in Wisconsin, and the organization
wants to keep it that way.
“It typically isn't caught for many years, and by that
time, a lot of damage can be done,” trade and consumer protection administrator
Sandy Chalmers said.
Chalmers said not only do these thefts go undetected for
years, but the criminals know they are stealing an identity without a
pre-existing credit report. That makes
it easier to fraudulently open credit accounts, start a mortgage, take out
loans, file a tax return, or even apply for a job under that social security
“We've heard reports of children, a nine-year-old child,
who has a home in foreclosure without even knowing about it,” Chalmers said.
Chalmers said unfortunately, families don’t usually find
out until their tots become teens.
“What may happen is a child is going to file their taxes
for the first time when they get a first job at age sixteen and find that a tax
return has already been filed using their social security number,” Chalmers
said. “Or they try to get a credit card
to establish a credit history, and they're turned down because they have
delinquent files on their credit history.”
Seeing the nationwide trends, Chalmers said a new law
makes Wisconsin one of the few states where parents can prevent this kind of
crime instead of reacting to a bad situation involving their children.
Chalmers said for $10, parents can create a credit report
for their child through any of the major credit bureaus, and freeze that report
until their son or daughter is ready to build up a score.
“It's so important that they understand that there's
something proactive that they can do here,” Chalmers explained, “and they have
a right under Wisconsin law, that not many other parents have in other states
in the country.”
Chalmers said parents should seriously consider putting a
freeze on their children’s credit report.
She also said families should ask questions before willingly giving out
their child’s social security number and monitor a kid’s social media use for
any personal information on the internet.
To freeze your child’s credit report, access instructions
from Equifax at https://help.equifax.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/779,
from Experian at https://www.experian.com/consumer/help/states/wi.html,
or from TransUnion at http://www.transunion.com/personal-credit/credit-disputes/ProtectedConsumers.page.
Thursday, March 20 2014, 09:49 PM CDT
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