SALT LAKE CITY - (ABC 4 News) Thousands of Utah children have had their identity stolen. However, on Tuesday the state of Utah and a private company announced a program to stop that from happening by protecting and basically freezing Social Security numbers.
Five-year-old Carter Andrushko has become the poster child for identity theft in Utah. In fact, someone started using his social security number before he was born. His mother, Jennifer Andrushko says, "The number has been in use periodically, for, since 2001."
That was five years before the Harrisville, Utah boy was born. And sadly, its been used, off and on, for five years since he was born. His family found out about the identity theft in 2009 while filling out some government paperwork. Jennifer says her immediate reaction when she found out was "Complete shock and surprise. I just didn't understand how this could happen to a three-year-old."
And that happens all the time. Attorney General Mark Shurtleff says the problem with children and ID is "They're often victimized and we don't know it." Shurtleff's office has a website just for identity theft called IRIS.
( http://www.idtheft.utah.gov/ ) And now it has a new feature called "Child Identity Protection" to stop it from happening in the first place. Steve Katz, from TransUnion says "We put the minor's social security number into our high risk fraud data base." Then TransUnion basically locks is up until the child's 17th birthday. Shurtleff calls this a very unique partnership.
"This is a special public private partnership with TransUnion. Where we can collaborate together on protecting our kids."
And protecting your kids is pretty easy. Once you go to the Utah Attorney General's IRIS page - parents merely have to enter their child's information and then simply send it to TransUnion. "We feel these steps really enable us and the state of Utah to protect minors to a degree never before available."
Jennifer wishes something like this existed when Carter was born. She says the time and effort she has put into dealing with the problem is too hard to calculate. And she says there isn't a lot of help out there. "I was feeling very helpless and desperate because I wasn't getting any help from social security and the IRS." She says she is now signing him up to the free service and she is encouraging every parent in Utah "to do the same and spread the word."
Utah child identity expert and advocate Ron Mortensen was also asked about the plan after it was announced. He says, it is a great program and "parents should sign their children up immediately."
According to the Attorney General's office the idea for this began a couple of years ago. Paul Murphy tells us that "Assistant Attorney General Richard Hamp and Utah State Rep. Eric Hutchings were brainstorming on ways to freeze a child's information so it couldn't be used for identity theft purposes, but kept hitting a wall. Since a child normally does not have a credit history, Hamp learned from TransUnion it was impossible to protect a record that did not exist. The Attorney General's Office and TransUnion agreed to work together so a parent could shield a child's information until he or she becomes credit active.