Minnesota's new child ID theft protection law trumped by federal law

December 31, 2018 05:31 PM

One of the new state laws that goes into effect Jan. 1 is a measure aimed at protecting kids from identity theft.

It’s an issue the 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS investigative team has followed closely for nearly two years.

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But here’s the catch: Congress beat Minnesota to the punch with a law of its own.

RELATED: In the Wrong Hands: Child Identity Theft

The state law was designed to align Minnesota with most of the rest of the country in allowing parents or guardians to freeze the credit reports of children under 16 years old.

“It’s out there and it’s happening,” said Rep. John Petersburg of Weseca.

But Petersburg’s bill got trumped, in a sense.

Back in September, as Minnesotans waited for the state law to take effect, a federal law did, which some experts say is even better.

“This is actually really good news. It's not only available to everyone but it has built in that it can protect your children - and it's free,” said Eva Velasquez, the head of the Identity Theft Resource Center, a national nonprofit that helps victims of identity theft.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Investigates: Child Identity Theft

She said that Minnesota is one of several states that began crafting legislation to give parents a tool to help protect their child’s identity.

“It's one of the most robust, proactive steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from identity crimes,” Valesquez said.

Here’s how it works: Parents have to contact all three credit reporting bureaus and request – for free – to freeze the credit report for any child under 16.

Parents will have to provide supporting documentation like social security cards and birth certificates to prove guardianship.

Freezing the child’s credit will stop thieves from pretending to be the child and taking out lines of credit.

“So this is preemptive, allowing you to do it before it could be stolen,” Petersburg said.

This move may offer children more protection, but it does come with extra responsibility as well.

PIN numbers and passwords provided by companies must be maintained potentially for years until the child is grown and ready to start building credit of their own.

“What a great New Year’s resolution,” Velasquez said. “We always talk about ways to take care of yourself and this is a great way to take care of yourself fiscally.”

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