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Steps To Avoid Credit Fraud Against Children

February 19, 2024

We all know how devastating being the victim of fraud can be; that's why safeguarding your credit is so important. However, when protecting credit, most people only consider precautions for adults. Yet many victims of identity theft crimes are children. Why? Their credit typically goes unmonitored!

Since most children haven't yet established any credit history, criminals can fraudulently create 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 (ExperianEquifax, and TransUnion). In most cases, a child won't have an existing credit file, so the credit bureau will create one for you and then freeze it. Doing so may stop lenders from accessing the child's report when criminals apply for credit cards or loans. Freezing credit costs nothing, but you will need supporting documentation. Visit each credit bureau's website 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 essential 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 continuously monitor their online communication and who it's with. And be sure to 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.

On a personal note, during the pandemic one of my kids received a government gift card that we never requested or even qualified for. This was during a time when schools started providing free school lunches to all students, but we questioned it since only one of my kids received it. We had already discussed freezing their credit, but this was the catalyst that prompted us to take action, especially since scams were growing exponentially and they are still very young. It was better to work on protecting their credit now, then working on fixing their credit later.

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.

And don’t forget to register for our webinar “Protecting Your Assets from Identity Theft, Fraud & Cyber Threats” to be held on Tuesday, February 27th at 4:00 pm EST. Click here to learn more and register.