Foiling criminals who can prey on young children

Criminals can, at times, be extremely deviant. They look for a weakness and then do all they can to exploit that weakness. One specific group, children, is often seen as a target by criminals and that is why I have consistently worked to strengthen our stateís laws to protect this sometimes vulnerable group. In past years I have lead efforts to crack down on sex offenders, close loopholes related to child pornography laws, and protect children from cyberbullying.

Among this yearís accomplishments, a measure (S.4751B) that requires school coaches to report suspected child abuse. This clarifies current law and will help ensure that suspected abuse is reported to law enforcement officials immediately. Coaches will receive special training, and, as is the case with other mandate reporters, will be protected from civil liability if a report is proven unfounded. The governor recently signed this bill into a law.

Another bill (S.6682B) that received both senate and assembly approval this year will protect children from identity thieves who steal information to establish fraudulent financial accounts. The legislation helps stop identity thieves from victimizing children by requiring credit agencies to place a credit record freeze on the account of a minor when requested by a parent or guardian.

Millions of Americans are victims of identity theft each year. These criminals can even target children Ė using a minorís Social Security number to apply for government benefits, open bank and credit card accounts, apply for a loan or utility service, or rent a place to live.

Stealing the identity of a child is a particularly egregious problem because it may go undetected for years, until the child applies for student loans, other forms of credit, or even a job. Identify theft involving children is particularly detrimental because it can postpone college admission due to student loan denials, prevent employment or the ability to access credit, and impact the renting or purchasing of a home. Delays can last for months or even years until the child can dispute the fraudulent activity and have the activity cleared from their credit report.

Parents are urged to check their children's credit reports to see if their personal information is being misused, and to take immediate action if it is. However, no mechanism currently exists for parents of children in New York State to take proactive measures to protect their children's credit. Current law allows a parent to freeze the credit of a child only after a file already exists in the child's name. Often this file exists because the child has already been the victim of identity theft.

The bill passed this year gives parents a way to proactively protect their children's credit records. Credit reporting agencies would be required to place a credit record freeze on the account of a minor when requested by a protected minor's representative who can provide sufficient proof of identification and sufficient proof of authority to act on behalf of the child.

Under the billís provisions, if the credit record of a minor is frozen, a consumer reporting agency would be prohibited from releasing the minor's report, or any information derived there from, to any third party, except in limited circumstances as required by law. The security freeze could eventually be removed.

This bill would bring New York state law in line with state laws in Maryland, Delaware, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Texas and Oregon, which require credit reporting agencies to allow a parent to freeze their child's credit even when no file exists, thereby averting the potential for identity theft to occur in the first place.

I am hopeful that when the bill is sent to the governor he will sign the measure into law to help protect the identity and the financial reputation of our young people.

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