In today’s digital society, children are too often targets of criminals. Did you know that you can review and freeze your children’s credit score (under age 16) at no cost? Here are our best practices for reviewing and monitoring your child’s credit and financial identity.
An Ounce of Prevention
8 Tips to protect your child’s personal information.
- Store Social Security numbers and other personal information, like Birth Certificates, in a safe place.
- Limit sharing. Many school, activity, and doctor forms ask for social security numbers. It’s wise to ask if you can simply provide the last 4 numbers or if an alternate ID number can be used. Ask how the data is protected and who has access.
- Don’t toss papers with sensitive information in the trash, shred them instead.
- Review your child’s credit periodically to assure no fraud activity. See below for how to check your child’s credit report.
- Consider a credit freeze. Although it takes effort to freeze and unfreeze, it is one of the best tools we have for preventing fraud.
- Consider purchasing for credit monitoring for yourself and your children.
- Enforce smart online habits. Be aware what apps your children are using and ensure the app (or your child) is not sharing personal information online, like full name and address.
- Educate your older children on the risks of identity theft and being smart with sharing personal information online.
How to Check your Child’s Credit Report
Generally, children won’t have credit reports. In fact, having a report can be a red flag that fraud is occurring. To find out if your child has a credit report, ask each credit bureau to check its records. Each bureau has specific instructions for these requests:
- Experian (Click on “Minor child instructions” under “Additional resources”)
If a credit bureau has a credit report for your child, they will send you a copy of the report for your review.
Consider a Credit Freeze
Most people are unaware you can request a credit freeze for your child for free. A credit freeze will make it difficult for someone to use your child’s information to open accounts and help safeguard their credit until they are an adult. Of course, once the child wants to legitimately use their credit steps are taken to lift the freeze. To place a freeze, follow the specific instructions for each credit bureau. Note: You must contact all credit bureaus when freezing and unfreezing credit for it to be effective.
Consider Credit Monitoring
If you want to take additional steps to minimize your child’s risk, credit monitoring services are available through each of the credit bureaus and also through other third party providers, such as LifeLock. Generally, children’s credit monitoring services are an add on feature to your own plan. You may have access to discounted or free credit monitoring through your bank or credit card providers, so it’s smart to check for these benefits. It is important to note that these credit monitoring services do not prevent fraud, but help notify you if there is any activity spotted, so it can be addressed promptly.
Want to learn more? Review the FTC’s information on Child Identity Theft.
Disclaimer: This article is provided for general information and educational purposes only. Nothing contained in the material constitutes tax advice, legal advice, a recommendation for purchase or sale of any security, or investment advisory services. I encourage you to consult a financial planner, accountant, and/or legal counsel for advice specific to your situation. Reproduction of this material is prohibited without written permission from Angela Wentz, and all rights are reserved. See full disclosures.