Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Legislation Proposed to Protect Children from Identity Thieves

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Legislation Proposed to Protect Children from Identity Thieves

Article excerpt

TALLAHASSEE

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and state Sen. Nancy Detert are teaming up on proposed legislation to protect Florida children from identity theft.

Putnam, who oversees consumer services for the state, said as many as 50,000 children are victimized by identity theft each year in Florida, representing more than $100 million in financial fraud.

"Identity theft is a growing problem and our children are at the greatest risk," Putnam said. "We can prevent it."

The bill (SB 242) being filed by Detert, R-Venice, and Rep. Heather Dawes Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, in the House (HB 151) will allow parents to freeze their children's credit records until they are ready to use them. The measure is called the KIDS (Keeping IDs Safe) Act.

The legislation, similar to a law passed in Maryland last year, is backed by a broad coalition of groups, including law enforcement, bankers and children's advocates.

"The KIDS Act is simple but powerful legislation that would give parents an additional tool to protect their children from identity theft," Detert said.

A similar measure failed to pass in the 2013 session. The House voted 116-0 for the bill, but it stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Fitzenhagen said one of the differences this year is that the coalition of groups supporting the measure has broadened and now includes the Florida Bankers Association, the Florida Sheriffs Association, Florida Police Chiefs Association, school superintendents and children's advocacy groups, including the Children's Home Society and the Florida Guardian ad Litem program.

Duval County Sheriff John Rutherford, representing the state's sheriffs, said the legislation represents another effort to stem identity theft, which he said is a growing and evolving area of crime that is often difficult to investigate.

"This KIDS Act is going to be a huge leap forward for law enforcement and others in protecting our children by allowing preemptively parents to go in and create accounts under their children's names and then freeze those accounts until some later date," Rutherford said.

Alan Abramowitz, executive director of the Guardian ad Litem program, said the legislation may be particularly important to children in the foster care system who may be more vulnerable to identity theft. …

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