Being the victim of fraud can be devastating. When it comes to protecting credit, most people only consider taking precautions for adults. But many victims of identity theft crimes are children. Why? Their credit typically goes unmonitored! Since most children will not yet have any credit history, criminals can fraudulently establish a “clean credit slate” for themselves, which can go unnoticed for years.
The good news is there are specific steps you can take to make sure the children in your life are protected. Here are a few things to do right away:
Freeze the child’s credit. Freeze the child’s credit by contacting each credit bureau which are Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Doing so may stop lenders from accessing the report when criminals try to apply for credit cards or loans. In most cases, there won’t be an existing credit file for a child, so the credit bureau will create one for you and then freeze it. Freezing credit doesn’t cost anything and can be done by mailing your request and proof of identification to each credit bureau. You can visit each of the three websites; Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion to download their specific forms and instructions.
Practice safety tips. Even if you freeze a minor’s credit, all minors eventually become adults. So, it’s important to adopt these four habits to keep their personal information locked down:
• Always keep birth certificates and social security cards locked away.
• Leave the social security number field on medical, sport, and school forms blank. If forced to add one, use all zeros to satisfy the requirement.
• Social directories can be accessed by scammers, so opt out of any sites that feature full names, dates of birth, addresses, phone numbers, and pictures. When possible, make profiles private.
• Online scammers “friend request” children to access their personal information, so always monitor their online communication and who it’s with. Educate children on the importance of not sharing their personal information, including their real names.
Know the warning signs. Children should not receive pre-approved credit card offers, bill or collection notices, applications for government benefits, or tax bills. If you notice any strange activity or requests, immediately check their credit history at all three credit bureaus. If their credit has been compromised, place a fraud alert on their account and create an identity theft report.
Using the tips above can guarantee a child’s credit will remain intact. As always, feel free to forward these tips to anyone who has children in their lives and could benefit from this valuable information.
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