We submitted our claim on the recent Equifax Data Breach settlement and we continue to monitor our credit through their service. While this service protects us, how can we protect our children since we are unable to request a security freeze or monitoring service on their credit because of their age?
—Kurt & Shelby, Grand Junction
Hi Kurt & Shelby,
I applaud you for protecting your children's identity since they are a prime target for identity theft. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the number of victims that are minors is growing at an alarming rate. There are examples of teenagers being turned down for student loans since they have collections, charge-offs, etc. on their credit file since they were five years old.
Over ten million people each year are victims of identity theft and while adults can place a "security freeze" on their credit file, children do not have this option since they do not have credit and therefore have no files to freeze. And if your child does have a credit file at an early age, chances are they are a victim of identity theft.
You can save both you and your children money, time and heartache by protecting their information as well as yours. The credit bureaus are aware of this problem, but it may be some time before they have a solution similar to freezing a credit file on a child.
The good news is you have many proactive options to protect you children from identity theft. I would pull their credit through www.annualcreditreport.com with all three bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). This will confirm they have no credit file and no one has used their social security number to apply for loans. This suggestion applies to everyone, never carry your social security card with you and keep it locked up at home. Avoid providing your social security number when filling out an application at a doctor's office, dentist office, etc. or over the phone or internet. Social Security numbers were not meant to be identification numbers, however, it was common practice to ask for your number, but they rarely needed it. When completing a form, leave it blank or provide just your last 4 digits if necessary.
Monitor your child's internet activity and make sure they are not providing personal information on social networking sites. If you allow your child to purchase anything online using your credit card number, make sure the website is secure by confirming the website starts with https.
You can also sign-up for Experian's credit monitoring service at www.familysecure.com. This will notify you if anyone has tried to establish credit using your child's information.
So how do you know if your child is already a victim of identity theft? The first sign is if they receive a pre-approved credit card offer in the mail or if you attempt to open up a savings account in their name and one already exists or they are denied due to poor credit history.
Each credit bureau offers services to check your child's credit file and the links are provided below.
Once your child turns 15, I encourage you to add them as an authorized user on one of your good standing credit cards. This is a great way to establish a credit file and help build good credit for their future and make it easier to check their credit on a regular basis through www.annualcreditreport.com.
There are other programs that help protect you and your entire family from identity theft and offer services that will repair your credit once you are a victim. While there is no guarantee that you will not be a victim of identity theft, the suggestions above should help minimize the risk.
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