When you think of the safety of a child, credit isn’t likely to be one of the first things that comes to mind. Unfortunately, ignoring your child’s credit can put him or her at risk, as identity thieves can target minors and abuse their credit histories.
Even if your child has no credit history, an identity thief could create one to establish fraudulent accounts without your knowledge. Here are some ways you can help monitor the credit of minors to help better protect them from child identity theft.
Check your child’s credit
One of the first things you may want to consider is obtaining a copy of your child’s credit report to determine whether a credit history has been established. If so, review the report for inaccurate or fraudulent information that may be signs of child identity theft. If your child does not yet have a credit report, you may want to consider contacting the three credit reporting agencies (CRAs) to create one for him or her, and add a security freeze to the credit file.
It is never too early to check on your child’s credit. Criminals can misuse a Social Security number (SSN) no matter how old the owner of the number is.
Secure your child’s report
If you suspect identity theft has occurred, you’ll first want to alert the local police to the crime. Once you have filed a police report, you can dispute any fraudulent information on your child’s report with the CRAs and the companies or financial institutions responsible for the accounts. You can find a detailed list of the information you’ll need for this process here. Standard documents needed usually include copies of your child’s birth certificate, his or her SSN or SSN card, and a copy of your driver’s license.
To help monitor your child’s credit, you can either place a fraud alert or security freeze on his or her reports or take advantage of any credit monitoring products you already use. Because it has to be lifted before anyone can apply for new lines of credit, a minor who isn’t likely to need access to credit can benefit from this tool without having to pay to remove it.
To request a security freeze with Equifax, you can contact them online or via phone at 1-888-298-0045. At least one of the documents will be necessary to complete this process with Equifax, so be sure to have this information handy if you need to begin the process.
Child’s or protected person’s required documents:
- Copy of the child’s or protected person’s Social Security card or a copy of the child’s or protected person’s birth certificate;
- SSA-89 Form with signature (from the SSA). This document is only required if the parent or guardian does not have a Social Security card or birth certificate for the child/protected person).
Parent’s or legal guardian’s required documents:
- Copy of legal guardianship document (for non-parental guardians only);
- Identification document showing the parent/ guardian’s name & current address. The following documents may also be used: utility bill with the correct address (electric, gas, water, or cable; mobile or residential phone bill; or pay stub).
Security freezes for minor children are free, but for older children or protected persons, they may involve a fee, including one from your state; you can view that information and other specific rules here.
If you pay for a credit monitoring tool, your child may be included in its coverage, depending on your plan. Some credit monitoring tools may even allow you to lock your child’s credit and unlock it when needed via your smartphone. Once your child is nearing age 18 and needs access to credit for student loans, a credit card, or a car loan, you can remove the freeze or, if you’re using a credit monitoring tool, simply allow it to expire.
Not only might these steps put you in a better position of monitoring your child’s credit, but you can also use these steps as an opportunity to educate your child on responsible credit use and the threat of identity theft. Keeping a child’s identity secure for 18 years only to unfreeze it without teaching him or her anything about credit might only delay this threat. Taking action now may help keep your child’s information secure and on the path to a positive financial future.
The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.