As parents we always worry about our kid’s safety, their health, their grades and at times if they are making the right choices. Then last fall after our credit card number was stolen, I began to wonder about protecting their credit.
Child identity theft is actually more common than you may think with over 500,000 new cases occurring every year. That means 1 in 40 households with at least one child who is under the age of 18, according to the FTC, has a child with a compromised credit report. That was a much larger number than I was expecting and it is only an estimate since it is not reported as often as it should be!
When Should You Check Your Kids Credit Report?
My first thought was to check our kid’s credit report starting now and to do it when we check ours each year. What I learned through doing my research was that the FTC actually recommends waiting until your child is 16 years old before doing a credit report check.
Most kids won’t have them yet since they can’t legally have a credit card or loan in their own name. Those kids who do have a credit report are typically authorized users on their parent’s credit cards. I personally have several thoughts on that issue, but that is a whole post all by itself!
If you do see a discrepancy or a problem on a credit report in your child’s name it’s important to close any fraudulently open accounts right away then file a police report in the city or town where the opened account originated. Once you have a copy of the police report you will need to file a complaint with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) and place both a fraud alert and a credit freeze on your kid’s credit report.
By checking your child’s credit report at 16 you should have plenty of time to fix any problems before they need to begin using it for student loans, renting their first apartment or when applying for their first adult job.
Note: If you have your teenager on your credit card as an authorized user they will have a credit report. This may make them more vulnerable to identity theft so you will need to be a bit more diligent in ensuring that their credit future is protected. If you want your child to have access to a credit card an alternative is to purchase and load a prepaid credit card.
How To Get A Copy Of Your Child’s Credit Report
You will be unable to obtain a copy of the credit report using the electronic form like you could if you were requesting your own. You will also not be able to gather the credit report information through the free Annualcreditreport.com website. That is simply an extra precaution to keeping your child’s credit report out of the hands of those who would potentially damage it.
1. Contact each of the three credit reporting agencies in writing. Write them a letter explaining who you are (the parent/guardian) and why you are want to check the child credit report. I suggest starting with TransUnion as they have a reputation for being the most “parent friendly”.
2. Along with the written letter you will want to provide the following information.
– Child’s full legal name
– Date of birth
– Copy of your child’s birth certificate
– Social Security card
– Your state issued ID or drivers license with current address
– Current utility bill with the same address that is on your drivers license
Final Thoughts: Never give your kid’s social security number out needlessly. Protect their Social Security number is as important as protecting their health as it is a number that will stay with them the rest of their lives. Think twice about handing such an important part of their identity over. Is it really needed or can you give the requester some other type of identification.
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