Freeze Your Children’s Credit
As of September 21, 2018, it will be free to freeze credit across all the major credit bureaus in the U.S. If you’ve put off credit freezes before due to the cost, now you can do it for free. Credit freezes are recommended if you believe you are at risk of identity theft, for example, due to the data breach at Equifax from last year. If you have children, you should also probably freeze their credit.
Over 1.3 million children have their identities stolen each year, with half of those being younger than six years old. A study done back in 2011 showed that children were 10 times more likely than adults to have their identities compromised. This is likely due to the fact that a child’s credit is a blemish free and gives criminals a clean slate to abuse. Compounding the problem, the damage often isn’t realized until they become of age and apply for credit in their own name.
Some warning signs that your child’s credit may be compromised include letters from the IRS about income tax, pre-approved credit offers, or calls from collection agencies regarding unknown/unpaid purchases. If you believe your child’s identity may have been compromised, check to see if they have a credit report- young children likely won’t have one. If there is an issue with their credit report, contact the three credit bureaus, place a fraud alert and file a fraud report. Read more on the FTC website.
Sharing your child’s sensitive data is often unavoidable in school or other situations, but there are things you can do to mitigate the possibility of theft. Only give out their social security number when it’s absolutely necessary. Ask administrators how they store, handle, and dispose of sensitive data. Make sure they have a plan in place to handle your child’s information.
Do the best you can to protect your child’s credit now and avoid the stress, time, and money it will take to resolve an issue in the future.