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How To Check Your Child’s Credit Report

When Should You Check Your Childs Credit Reports

Credit Scores & Reports : How to Check Your Children’s Credit Report

One in 40 households with kids had at least one child’s ID compromised.

April 5, 2014 — Parents have plenty of reasons to worry about how their kids will handle money and credit. How can you get them to save? Will they get a good job when they are on their own? Will they pay their bills on time? How much debt will they rack up if they go to college?

Now add one more thing to the list: child identity theft.

One in 40 households with children under age 18 had at least one child whose personal information was compromised by identity fraud, according to the 2012 Child Identity Fraud Survey, conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research and sponsored by ITAC.

Some of those victims discover that credit accounts have been opened in their names, even though they were young children at the time. While its never easy to learn your childs identity has been compromised, the sooner you discover the problem, the better. Once you know, youll hopefully be able to stop the perpetrator from continuing to misuse your child’s information.

Children should not have credit reports. Therefore, a credit report in the name of a child who has never applied for or been granted credit is likely a sign that something is amiss. Parents who suspect a problem may want to contact the credit reporting agencies to find out if a report exists on their child.

When to Check Credit

What are some reasons to be concerned?

  • Debt collectors contact the child attempting to collect a debt.
  • Legal name
  • Warning Signs To Look For

    As I already noted, this type of crime often goes undetected for a year or more because parents dont have occasion to check their childrens . But here are some warning signs the FTC says you should look for:

    • Your child is turned down for government benefits because his or her Social Security number is already receiving those benefits.
    • You get an IRS notice saying your child didnt pay income taxes or that your childs Social Security number was used on another return.
    • You get collections calls or bills for a product or service you never used.

    These are the reasons the FTC lists, but if you have another reason to think your childs ID has been compromised, you might also take the following steps. This might include a family member explicitly asking for your childs identity information in a way that makes you suspicious. Or it could include receiving notice from your insurance company, doctors office, or other entity that identities they have on file may have been compromised.

    Your Credit May Be Affected By Others Mistakes

    You may be conscientious about paying bills on time, but others may still make errors that could hurt your credit, and you may not realize it. If you cosign for your childs credit card and he or she is late on a payment, your credit may take a hit. Unless your child lets you know or gives you access to the account, you may not find out until you check your credit report. The FTC says that about 20 percent of all credit reports contain an error, yet another reason to make sure youre on top of things. A lot of times, people dont even realize theyre hurting the people who helped them, says Tracy Becker, a credit expert at North Shore Advisory, in Tarrytown, N.Y.

    Checking your credit report can be a painful way to learn about miscommunications and failings. But it can also serve as a reminder to monitor things that might usually escape your notice, such as medical bills that were supposed to be covered by insurance companies, or payments that were supposed to be made by bookkeepers.

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    How To Freeze Your Childs Credit

    While freezing your credit tends to be a fairly straightforward process that can usually be completed online, freezing your childâs credit is a bit more involved and must be done through the mail. Each credit bureau has its own protocol for freezing a minorâs credit, and some require more documentation than others. To streamline the process, begin by gathering up the following:

    • Your ID
    • Birth certificates for you and your child
    • Social Security cards for you and your child
    • A recent utility bill or bank statement as proof of residency.

    You then have to connect with all three of the national credit bureaus to put a freeze in place. Hereâs how to do it:

    Equifax: Fill out this form, then mail it to the address listed at the bottom with copies of the required documentation.

    Experian: Complete this form and send it to the address featured at the center of the page, along with copies of the requested documents. Experian also requests that you provide any previous addresses for the past two years.

    TransUnion: Follow the instructions listed here under âHow do I freeze for my minor child?â for how to place a âprotected consumer freeze,â which explains the documents required, and mail to the address listed at the end.

    Should You Pay For Credit Monitoring

    How to check your child

    Most credit monitoring services focus on monitoring adults’ credits. However, some services offer protection for everyone in the household. If youre truly concerned about ongoing problems with identity theft, these services may appeal to you.

    Just make sure that you vet these services thoroughly before spending money on them. Look into what level of monitoring the services offer, and what services they offer customers who have been victims of identity theft.

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    Additional Steps To Protect Your Childs Credit Report

    Beyond reporting the fraud to the FTC, companies and credit bureaus, there are other actions you can take to help protect your child. You may want to consider placing a credit freeze on your childs credit report if theyve been a victim of identity theft. With a credit freeze, lenders wont be able to access their credit report, preventing new accounts from being opened in their name.

    Even if your child does not have a credit report yet, you can still add a credit freeze as a layer of protection until theyre able to apply for credit on their own. If you request a credit freeze for a child who does not have a file already, TransUnion will create a credit file and then freeze it.

    To place a freeze for a minor, youll need to submit a written request. As part of that process, youll supply supporting documents proving you have the authority to act on behalf of the minor or dependent. Youll also need to prove your own identity.

    A freeze for a minor is called a Protected Consumer Freeze. With this type of freeze, its either on or off, but cant be temporarily lifted. To remove the freeze, youll need to mail in the request and documentation again. When the child turns 16, they can remove or add the credit freeze themselves by sending a letter with identifying information.

    You can learn more about the documents required for the requests noted above and where to send the letters on our .

    What About Repairing The Credit

    If your childs credit has already been abused, you may need to spend time cleaning up the problems. First, youll need to place a fraud alert on your childs credit report. Then, youll need to file a report with the FTC and your local police department.

    Next, youll need to contact businesses where accounts were opened in your childs name. These businesses should work with you to remedy the accounts and remove them from your childs credit report.

    Its important to make sure you work through these steps sooner rather than later. While youre at it, be sure to record any phone calls that you have, and to send information in writing as well. Keep copies of the letters and the dates that you made calls or sent letters. That way you can reference what youve done so far if you have trouble getting businesses to close these accounts.

    Resource:How to Correct an Error on Your Credit Report

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    Check For Credit Fraud Annually

    It isnt hard for criminals to use your childs social security number to obtain credit. When you check your own credit once a year, make time to monitor your childs credit as well. This is not the same as running a credit check, and you should avoid running a free credit check online with your childs social security number. Andrew Schrage, co-owner of Money Crashers Personal Finance, suggests that you call the three major credit bureaus by phone and request an inquiry into child identity theft. Explain clearly that your only question is whether or not a exists and that you want a manual search done by social security number only, Schrage says. That is the best route to go.

    Find the best credit cards for teens > >

    Does Your Child Have A Credit Score

    Check Your Child’s Credit Report

    Typically, only people over the age of 18 have a credit score but it is possible for minors to have a credit report. A person under 18 can have a credit report if:

    • Their identity was stolen and used to open one or more credit accounts.
    • A credit agency erroneously created a credit profile in the minor’s name.
    • An adult added the minor as an authorized user or opened a joint account in the minor’s name.

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    Child Tax Credit: Your Tax Refund Could Bring Another $1800 Per Child

    You can still expect more enhanced child tax credit money this year. Learn how to get half of it with your tax refund.

    Katie Teague

    Associate Writer

    Katie is an Associate Writer at CNET, covering all things how-to. When she’s not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.

    Peter Butler

    How To and Money writer

    I’m a writer/editor for CNET How-To and Money, living in South Berkeley, CA with two kids and two cats. I enjoy a variety of games and sports — particularly poker, ping-pong, disc golf, basketball, baseball, puzzles and independent video games.

    Advance child tax payments ended in December 2021.

    The 2021 expanded child tax credit gave millions of eligible families six monthly checks for up to $300 last year. While those payments have come to an end, parents can still expect to get more money with their tax refunds this year. That could be up to $1,800 per child under 6, or $1,500 per child age 6 to 17. Families who opted out of advance payments could get $3,600 or $3,000 per child, respectively, after they file their tax returns.

    When To Get A Credit Freeze

    If youre not actively shopping for a credit card or loan, freezing your credit is wise. Now that freezing credit and unfreezing credit are free, NerdWallet recommends that all consumers protect themselves in this way.

    If you think your data may have been compromised, for instance in a data breach, get a credit freeze. Its especially key if your all-important Social Security number may have been disclosed.

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    Why Aren’t The Enhanced Child Tax Credit Checks Getting Extended

    To date, the enhanced monthly child tax credit checks have expired and will revert back to the original amount unless a vote is made to extend the payments. The House of Representatives passed an extension of the child tax credit increase and advance payments when it ratified the Build Back Better bill in November. However, Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, said he wouldn’t support the bill unless a work requirement for parents is added, effectively killing the legislation.

    President Joe Biden said he isn’t sure if the enhanced child tax credit will remain in the Build Back Better bill, but plans to break the package up into chunks. We’ll update this story as new information develops.

    What To Do If You Spot Problems

    When Should You Check Your Childâs Credit Reports?

    If you see mistakes on your students credit report , follow each agencys instructions for correcting them. The same holds true if you see financial accounts on your students report that you know arent theirs. If thats the case, you may also want to put a fraud alert on your son or daughters three credit files and even consider freezing their credit.

    Although the process can be time-consuming and a bit unnerving, youre better off finding and fixing credit problems now. Once your teen is in college, their financial picture gets more complicated.

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    How To Check Your Child’s Credit Report

    As a parent, you want to protect your child from all of life’s perils. While you might be on the lookout for bullies and strangers, fraud and identity theft might not be on your radar. But they should be.

    “Risk is part of parenting,” says Trevor Buxton, certified fraud examiner and assistant vice president at PNC Bank. Fortunately, some threats can be avoided by taking precautions — and that includes identity theft.

    Unfortunately, children are an easy target of credit fraud and identity theft. But by regularly checking if they have credit reports in their name, you can keep an eye out for suspicious activity and stop it before the problem gets out of hand.

    The Growing Problem of Child Identity Theft

    More than 1 million children were identity fraud victims in 2017, according to estimates in a 2018 study by Javelin Strategy & Research. Two-thirds of the victims were younger than 8.

    Why Do Credit Applications Matter

    Most people apply for credit based on whats going on in their life, not on an ongoing basis. For instance, a young adult starting out at post-secondary might apply for their first credit card and a cellphone plan in their own name. A car loan could fit into this timeline too if their income supports it. After a number of years, this person might apply for a second credit card or larger limit on the card they already have, a new car loan or even a mortgage. At that time a line of credit might make sense too. Then a decade or more could go by with very little new credit needed, during which time their personal details are not updated.

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    How To Claim Your Money If You Had A Newborn Or Adopted Since Last Filing Your Taxes

    If you had a baby by the end of December — or adopted one — you’ll be eligible for up to $3,600 for that child when you file your taxes. That includes back pay for the July through December advance payments and the chunk coming with your refund.

    You should get that money when you claim your child on your tax return, which will let the IRS know about your household changes.

    Youll Save Money By Being Proactive About Your Credit

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    Good credit could potentially save you thousands of dollars in interest payments throughout your life.

    If youre happy with your credit now, reviewing all your credit reports at least once a year and checking for any potential errors can ensure it stays protected year-round. This way, if you apply for a loan, you probably wont have to scramble at the last minute to dispute errors, and you likely wont have to shell out more in interest than youd otherwise pay.

    If you have poor credit, reviewing your credit reports can help you figure out how to rebuild it. Instead of guessing at the problem, youll be able to see which negatives are bringing it down. Our Credit Score feature will give you advice and tips on how to better your score.

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    Freeze Your Child’s Credit

    A restricts access to your , which helps safeguard against fraudsters opening unauthorized accounts in your name. You should have a credit freeze in place for yourself at all times, except when you’re applying for new credit. And if your child is under 18, their credit reports should be frozen as soon as possible.

    “Freeze your children’s credit if they are young, as they won’t need it for many years,” Lasher says.

    You’ll need to initiate credit freezes with all three to ensure your child’s credit reports are all frozen. While this process can normally be completed in under 10 minutes for adults, for children it is “time consuming, but worthwhile,” Lasher says.

    “The three major credit bureaus in the U.S. currently do not offer an online portal to freeze your children’s credit, even if they have them to freeze your own credit,” Lasher says.

    So you’ll need to print out forms with each bureau, fill them out, provide copies of required documentation, such as your driver’s license and your child’s birth certificate, and mail the completed forms and documents to each bureau.

    Here are the links to freeze your child’s credit with each bureau:

    “You will receive a confirmation letter in the mail, which you should store in your safe so that you have the documentation to unfreeze credit when it is time,” Lasher explains.

    Tips To Protect Your Childs 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. Its 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.
  • Dont toss papers with sensitive information in the trash, shred them instead.
  • Review your childs credit periodically to assure no fraud activity. See below for how to check your childs 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 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.
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