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For first time, SC parents can protect kids from identity theft

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCIV) - For the first time in South Carolina history, parents have the power to freeze their child's credit report thereby protecting them from the daunting threat of child identity theft.

"A lot of times children won't realize their identity has been stolen until they are 18 and they are applying for a loan for their first car or to go to school," said Juliana Harris, a representative for the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs.

On Jan. 1, a state law went into effect which allows consumers to create and freeze a credit file for a minor or an incapacitated adult if you are their guardian.

The legislation comes two years after 3.8 million tax returns were hacked from the state database and compromised.

"Dependent information was included on those tax returns that were compromised," said Harris. "That's a great way to deter against identity theft."

Three companies offer credit freezing: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Equifax and TransUnion offer an automated phone line for service. Experian has an online tool that can be used.

Here's what the Department of Consumer Affairs says every consumer needs to know.

When a security freeze is in place, a business that receives an application for products or services cannot get access to your credit report without your permission.

The freeze will not affect your ability to pull your own credit report or receive credit monitoring services. Businesses you currently have a relationship with can still access your report.

To place a freeze you must contact each of the three major credit reporting agencies. When you place the freeze, you will receive a Personal Identification Number. When you want to apply for new products or services, the PIN will be required to temporarily lift, or thaw, the freeze either for a specified creditor or a specified time.

The PIN is also needed to permanently remove the freeze. Make sure to keep it in a safe place.

It is free to place, thaw and lift the freeze for South Carolinians.

"I'm grateful that legislators are paying attention to the things that parents don't ordinarily have to think about," said Heather Jones, mom of two who plans to freeze her kids' credit reports.

Harris reiterates how important it is to keep all the information pertaining to the freeze. She says to make sure all information is safely accessible.

To find out more information on how to place, thaw or life a security freeze, click here.

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