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Senate approves legislation cracking down on offenders who steal child identities

The full Senate gave approval to Senate Bill 312 on Monday, which would create harsher penalties for those who steal the identity of a person under the age of 18. The measure is authored by Sen. George Burns, R-Pollard.

“Victims of identity theft can deal with the fallout of the crime for years, but it’s often more challenging for children because the theft isn’t typically caught until adulthood,” Burns said. “My hope is by cracking down on this crime, identity thieves will think twice before they steal.”  

Further magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic, child identity theft has become a billion-dollar industry. According to a 2018 child identity fraud study, more than a million children across America were victims of identity theft in 2017, resulting in $2.67 billion in losses and $540 million in out-of-pocket expenses for families.

“Studies have shown that nearly two-thirds of child identity theft victims are under the age of seven,” Burns said. “Unfortunately, I’ve even heard the tragic stories of the perpetrator being in the victim’s immediate family. We must hold these criminals accountable for their actions.”

Under the proposed measure, the penalty for child identity theft or fraud would be a felony punishable by either two to 10 years in prison, a fine not to exceed $100,000, or both a fine and prison time. Currently, the penalty for identity theft or fraud is a felony punishable by one to five years in prison, or a fine not to exceed $100,000.

The measure now moves across the rotunda where Rep. Eddy Dempsey, R-Valliant, is the House author.