Have you been a victim of identity theft? If so, you know the pain of discovering thousands of dollars of unauthorized charges and of untangling fraudulent accounts from your credit report. When your child is the victim of identity theft, the difficulties can be magnified. How do you go about recovering and improving the credit of someone who has no credit?
Warning signs of identity theft
Without an existing credit report or financial identity, the first red flags for identity theft could be odd mail. Your child may receive pre-approval for credit or a credit application—things someone with no credit activity shouldn’t be receiving—or collection notices or a Social Security earnings statement. Another red flag might be raised if you go to open your young child’s first savings account only to find that there’s already an account on file. Marietta Jelks of the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies says she’s even heard of teenagers who can’t get a driver’s license because someone is already using their Social Security number.
Who do you need to notify?
First, contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Child identity theft is one of the agency’s biggest priorities, and while the FTC can help you with your individual situation, your case might also help prevent future identity theft.
You should also go to the police. Bring as much information as possible when you file your police report. Take credit reports, bills, collection notices, and anything else you have to make the case that your child’s identity has been stolen.
If you can figure out where your identity thief has opened accounts, contact the fraud department at these corporations. This is where your police report will come in handy. Companies won’t close accounts just because you say so; you’ll have to provide proof that these accounts are fraudulent.
How to check your child’s credit report
With a copy of your police report, you can now request a copy of any information on file by the three credit reporting agencies. The request will need to be in writing.
Once you have your credit reports, you’ll want to contact any credit issuers or collection agencies listed on the credit report or who have been in contact with you. Give them copies of the police report and the credit report. Explain that this is a case of child identity theft and that the contract is not binding due to the age of the child at the time the contract was written.
Ask to have all accounts, application inquiries, and collection notices removed immediately from your child’s credit report. You can do this via the credit issuer or through a dispute process with the credit reporting agencies. In the end, the credit issuer is the final decision maker as to whether to accept the claim of fraud or not.
Request copies of all application and transaction records. According to federal law, credit issuers and collection agencies must make those documents available to the victim/parent when a police report has been submitted with the written request. Make copies and provide them to the police investigating the case. These documents may help you discover how this crime occurred.
If you’ve been through this process before, you know how painful and arduous it can be. Instead of trying to recover your child’s credit report and personal information after identity theft, you can help prevent the theft from happening. With the new Equifax Complete Family Plan, a blank credit file is created using your child’s Social Security number, and that account is locked until he or she turns 18. No one will be able access his or her personal information or credit file unless you give permission, giving you the peace of mind that your child’s credit history will be safe for years to come.
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