PORTLAND, Ore. - Identity thieves' lives are going to get trickier on Friday.
Parents and legal guardians will be able to place a security freeze on children's credit histories to prevent thieves from taking over their information and making fraudulent charges that often aren't discovered for years.
"It's unfortunate that children can be identity-theft victims and have their credit seriously affected or ruined at such a young age," said Patrick Allen, the director of the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services. "This new tool will give peace of mind to parents."
Before we get any farther, did you even know a child's identity could be stolen? About one in every 40 kids in the United States will become victims of identity theft before they reach 18. Often, it's the child's parents or other family members who commit the theft.
Just ask 8-year-old Riley Dennedy, who had her identity stolen. Her Social Security number had been hacked years before she was even born -- before her number has been assigned to her and was out there somewhere in a cache of numbers.
Interestingly, her mom, Michelle Dennedy, is a professional in online security at McAffee Software.
"If they can get to me, they can get to anyone," Riley said.
Freezing children's credit will take a bit of work.
Parents first need to create a protected record through the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. They'll then need to place a freeze on that record, which will cost $10 per agency.
When the child turns 18, they can delete the protected record.
"I am pleased that the legislature has provided Oregon families with this important tool to fight identity theft," said Sen. Floyd Prozanski of Eugene. "It will help keep our children's credit ratings safe."
Minors are easy targets because they have blank credit records and aren't likely to check the report.
First, check if your child actually has a credit report. If they do, that could be a sign someone's hacked their identity. Then, you can place a security freeze on their credit if you find a problem.
"I wish I could just come on and say, 'This is great. This solves the problem,'" Michelle Dennedy said. "I think what it does is it highlights a really, really important issue, which is your digital life and your child's digital life is every bit as important as holding their hand as they go across the street."
For more information about the protected record and security freezes for both children and adults, check out "How to obtain a security freeze" at the Division of Finance and Corporate Securities website.
KATU News Reporter Emily Sinovic contributed to this report.