By Rep. Darrio Melton
If you read these opinion pieces with any regularity, you know that I am a strong supporter of the American Dream. You know that I believe that anyone who works hard and plays by the rules should be able to be successful. You also know that I don’t like when the cards seem stacked against these hard working people, especially for circumstances beyond their control.
We talk a lot about access to quality education so our children can reach their fullest potential. We talk about higher education and trade schools to offer them the opportunity to get a job that provides for themselves and their families. We talk about a strong economy that makes all of these things possible.
What we haven’t talked about is when children have their futures stolen before they even start.
Nationally, child identity theft is on the rise. We must find a way to combat identity theft and identity fraud so our children can start adulthood with a clean slate.
Whether it’s a parent or relative using a child’s identity to obtain a credit line or a stranger using the identity for a false credit-repairing service, the victims often spend years unaware that their credit score is practically negative.
When those children get ready to apply for a student loan, their first apartment, a car or a credit card, they find a long list of negative credit items that force them into bankruptcy for mistakes they never made.
When some break the rules, it isn’t fair to the kids who worked hard and played by the rules. So we must find a way to strengthen the rules to protect the innocent young adults just trying to get on their feet.
From a legal side, companies that deal in credit should verify the age of those applying for a loan. If the applicant is 7-years-old, that loan should probably be reconsidered.
We must also find a way to reclaim the debt incurred on the child’s credit without forcing them to take a parent or family member to court.
As parents, we absolutely must keep our children’s social security numbers and identifying information in a safe, secure area.
We can also run a credit check on our children once a year for free. If the child is under 18, he or she should not have a credit history.
If you ever have any suspicions about your child’s credit, such as receiving notices in the child’s name, contact authorities immediately.
We must work together–as parents and a community–to keep our children safe from harm and ensure they are able to reach any dreams they work to achieve.
Our children are the future of this state and this community–we cannot let their futures get taken from them.
Darrio Melton is a democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010.