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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Starting Sept. 21, 2018, a new federal law will offer you and your children more protection from identity theft.

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You will be able to place a security freeze on your credit files at no charge and be able to do the same for your children.

Right now, all of the states have differing laws on security freezes. Here in Pennsylvania, it costs $10 to freeze and unfreeze your credit with each reporting agency and parents cannot freeze their children’s files. However, the new law will make it uniform across all 50 states, free and optional for every age.

Identity theft will turn your life upside down.

“I was shocked,” said Heather Karpinsky.

What is often most devastating is that the damage is already done before it’s discovered.

“Identity theft of children tends to happen for a number of years, until they go to apply for their first job or student loans and discover that their identity has been compromised,” said Caitlin Driscoll of the Better Business Bureau.

It happened to Heather Karpinsky’s 5-year-old son, Gavin.

“I got a letter that said ‘collection notice’ also to Gavin, and I thought, ‘How could Gavin have a collection notice?’ And I opened it up, and it was a bill for a little over $180; and the following day, I got another letter in the mail that said his identity had been stolen by a computer hacker,” said Karpinsky.

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A security freeze is arguably the most effective way to prevent identity theft. If thieves try to open a line of credit, they will not be able to because the file is frozen and only you have the pin to unfreeze it.

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“At this time, Pennsylvania is not one of the 33 states that allows parents and legal guardians to place a freeze on their child’s credit report preemptively,” said Driscoll.

President Donald Trump’s signing of the “Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act” creates uniformity across the country, where starting Sept. 21, 2018, anyone can freeze and unfreeze their credit files with Experian, Equifax and TransUnion for free. Parents may also freeze their children’s files for free.

“It will enable parents in Pennsylvania to freeze their child’s credit report up until they turn 16,” said Driscoll.

Consumers will also be able to request free fraud alerts for a longer amount of time.

“Currently, fraud alerts are free, but they are for a period of only 90 days. They’ll now be extended for a full year if you sign up for that,” said Driscoll.

In 2017, 17 million Americans were the victims of identity theft, and Gavin was one of an estimated one million child victims.

“Thieves will specifically target children and their Social Security number’s due to the fact that their credit is a clean slate and that they’re not checking their credit reports typically on a consistent basis,” said Driscoll.

While nothing is foolproof, a security freeze is an excellent way to stop an identity theft before it starts.

To request a security freeze, visit each of the following:

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To report an identity theft, visit: