New Washington law allows parents to freeze their child's credit

A KING 5 Facebook post prompts new legislation designed to protect children.

OLYMPIA, WASH. - A KING 5 Facebook post prompted new legislation in Washington state designed to protect children from becoming the victims of identity theft by allowing parents to freeze their child's credit.

Last year, KING 5 examined why more than 20 other states like North Carolina allow parents to freeze their children's credit before it has been compromised-- and Washington did not.

A recent study by identity theft protection company, All Clear ID, shows roughly one in 10 children become the victims of identity theft, making them roughly 35 times more likely than adults to be victimized.

A child's credit is attractive to thieves because it's often rarely checked, allowing the fraud to continue for an extended period, and, unlike adults, a child's credit is often a clean slate.

A woman whose son's identity had been compromised when he was just six months old was watching.

Monitoring her son's credit was something she had never worried about before that day.

"I talked to other parents, and they said, 'I have to monitor my child's credit? I don't even know how to do that,'" Hillary Hunt said.

When Hillary learned that other states were allowing parents to freeze their child's credit for a small one-time fee until they were older but that Washington was not, she was upset.

In Washington, parents could only freeze a child's credit after it had been compromised.

"You can't lock the barn door until your horse is already stolen, which is kind of ridiculous," Hillary Hunt said.

That's when she called her dad, who also happened to be Representative Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, for help.

He rushed to draft a bill and it passed.

"This one really hit home, to talk about my grandson and other people his age," Representative Hunt said.

Governor Jay Inslee signed SHB2859 into law Thursday.

"We're always looking for ways to fight identity theft because it is so prevalent in our community, and I'm just glad we just extended this to the most vulnerable among us," Governor Inslee said, just after the signing.

It was a big relief for Hillary.

"Just a relief that I'm not going to have to worry about this," Hillary Hunt said. "This is going to be a big benefit for parents. You don't have to worry about credit reports. You can focus on the important things. When you think about, it very few minors need access to credit until they're 16 or in college."

Under the Washington law, parents can freeze their child's credit until they turn 16 for a fee of about $10. The fee is waived for minors who have already been the victims of identity theft.

It also requires issuers of birth certificates to provide information compiled by the Department of Health about how to freeze a child's credit to protect their identity.

The law also allows representatives of an incapacitated person to freeze that person's credit on their behalf as well.

It takes effect January 2017.

Copyright 2016 KING


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