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Protect Your Child From Identity Theft

As unbelievable as it may seem, your child’s credit is something to think about. No, we’re not talking about extra credit for school. We’re not talking about acknowledging them for a job well done. We’re talking about their financial credit. Why? Because the stats aren’t pretty — 1 in 50 U.S. children were victims of ID fraud from 2020 to 2021, and 1 in 45 had personal information that was exposed in a data breach. To avoid being a part of that statistic, here are the highpoints on child identity theft that you need to know about.

Has Your Child’s Identity Has Been Stolen?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) tells parents that these four things are big red flags that something is wrong with their child’s credit. 

  • Your child is turned down for government benefits because they are already being paid to another account with your child’s Social Security number.
  • Your child receives word from the IRS saying they didn’t pay income taxes or that their Social Security number was used on another tax return.
  • Your child gets collection calls or bills.
  • Your child receives credit card offers or bank information in the mail.

If any of these things happen, freeze your child’s credit (steps are below) and report what happened to the FTC at IdentityTheft.gov.

How to Protect Your Child From ID Theft

While there’s never a 100% chance you’ll shield yourself from fraudsters, here are some simple steps to avoid the huge financial headache of recovering from identity theft.

  1. Freeze Your Child’s Credit – Take one of the best preventative measures out there by freezing your child’s credit. Simply put, it halts any borrowing that can be done with their name and social security number. It’s a bit of a process, so there’s a whole section dedicated to the steps below. 
  2. Watch What You Post – A lot of the information a fraudster might need to open up a line of credit in your child’s name (birthdays, answers to security questions, etc.) can be scraped off mom or dad’s social media accounts. How? Because 73% of child ID victims personally know their perpetrators. Which means the person most likely to open up a line of credit in your child’s name is also your friend or follower online. 
  3. Watch What Your Child Posts – Kids under 13 are at exceptional risk for being frauded on the internet. Many of them already have social media accounts but don’t have the ability to know if what they are posting is harmful or not. It’s easy for bad actors on the internet to create a spoof account, friend your child, and mine the information they need to open an account in your child’s name. In fact, children with unmonitored internet access are three times as likely to be victims of identity fraud.

What Is a Credit Freeze?

Before we talk about freezing your credit, let’s talk about what it is.

  • A credit freeze restricts access to a credit report. That means neither you nor others can open a new credit account while the freeze is in place. 
    • This is great until you (or your teenager) go to apply for a job, rent an apartment, or get a credit card. Thankfully, you can temporarily lift credit freezes. Contact each of the three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — and they’ll walk you through the process.
  • Anyone can make a credit freeze, it is completely free, and it lasts until you remove it. (If you are contacted and told anything to the contrary, it’s a scam.)
  • In order to place a freeze on your credit (or your child’s), you need to contact each of the three credit bureaus separately. Contacting only one won’t get the job done. 

How to Freeze Your Child’s Credit

COMPLEXITY ALERT — THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS SUPER HELPFUL BUT A LITTLE COMPLICATED … WE’RE SORRY

Adult credit freezes are fairly simple and can usually be done over the internet. Again, it requires contacting each of the three U.S. credit bureaus and freezing them in each one. These agencies are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

The same is true for children, but the process is more involved. It requires sending them several pieces of information by mail. They want to make sure the person requesting the freeze is actually the guardian of the child/children involved. The steps are similar, but the process is a little different for each. In every instance, you’ll need the following things:

  • A written request to add a freeze to your child’s credit file. 
    • Equifax and Experian have specific forms for you to do this. 
  • Proof of your child’s identity, which could either be a copy of their Social Security card or a copy of their birth certificate. Do not send the original documents in the mail. 
    • The specifics on which documents to send depends on the credit bureau. Carefully read their individual instructions below. 
  • Proof of your authority as your child’s guardian, which could be a copy of either your birth certificate, valid Power of Attorney, court order, or foster care certification.
  • If you already know your child is a victim of identity theft, provide the report you obtained verifying the theft.

Here are the cliffnotes of requirements for each credit bureau, as well as a link to each agency’s page for the fine details. Remember…

  • If the agencies request the same document multiple times, you only need to send them one copy. (It will pull double duty in some cases, which is convenient.)
  • Contact EACH of the credit bureau’s in order to freeze credit. Contacting one won’t do the job.

EquifaxTo freeze your child’s credit with Equifax, you’ll need:

  • Proof of your identity, so EITHER
    • A copy of your driver’s license (or other government-issued identification)
    • A copy of your Social Security card
    • Or a copy of your birth certificate
  • Proof of guardianship, so EITHER
    • A copy of your child’s birth certificate
    • A copy of a court order
    • A copy of a lawfully executed and valid power of attorney
    • Or a copy of a foster care certification
  • Proof of your child’s identity, so BOTH
    • A copy of your child’s Social Security card
    • And a copy of your child’s birth certificate
  • Fill out their Security Freeze Request Form with your child’s information
  • Send it all to:
    Equifax Information Services LLC
    P.O. Box 105788
    Atlanta, GA 30348

Experian – To freeze your child’s credit with Experian, you’ll need:

  • Proof of your identity, so EITHER
    • A copy of your driver’s license (or other government-issued identification)
    • A copy of your Social Security card
    • Or a copy of your birth certificate
  • Proof of address, so EITHER
    • A copy of a bank statement
    • A copy of a utility bill
    • Or a copy of an insurance statement
  • Proof of guardianship, so EITHER
    • A copy of your child’s birth certificate
    • A copy of a court order
    • A copy of a lawfully executed and valid power of attorney
    • Or a copy of a foster care certification
  • Proof of your child’s identity, so BOTH
    • A copy of your child’s Social Security card
    • And a copy of your child’s birth certificate
  • Fill out the “Add or remove a security freeze for a minor” form
  • Send it all to:
    Experian
    PO Box 9554
    Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion – TransUnion asks parents to fill out a Child Identity Theft Inquiry to check and see if a credit report has already been created for their child. That will verify or rule out existing fraud. Once that check is complete, you can proceed to freezing your child’s credit. To do that with TransUnion, you’ll need:

  • Proof of your identity, so EITHER
    • A copy of your driver’s license (or other government-issued identification)
    • A copy of your Social Security card
    • Or a copy of your birth certificate
  • Proof of guardianship, so EITHER
    • A copy of your child’s birth certificate
    • A copy of a court order
    • A copy of a lawfully executed and valid power of attorney
    • Or a copy of a foster care certification
  • Proof of your child’s identity, so BOTH
    • A copy of your child’s Social Security card
    • And a copy of your child’s birth certificate
  • If you know that your child’s identity has already been stolen, TransUnion requests you include that report, too.
    • A written request to place a “protected consumer freeze” on your child’s file
      • TransUnion doesn’t provide a form for parents to fill out like the other two credit bureaus. 
      • That being the case, include a simple letter that states, “Please place a protected credit freeze on the account of minor child [your child’s name].”
  • Send it all to:
    TransUnion
    P.O. Box 380
    Woodlyn, PA 19094

Hard Work Pays Off

We know that’s a lot of work and a lot of fine details. But the results will be worth it. Don’t give scammers the opportunity to damage your finances and your children’s financial future. Freezing their credit will go a long way in protecting them. However, teaching (and practicing) safe online behavior will keep fraudsters out of your life and your private information.

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