Credit monitoring for minors: How to prevent child identity theft

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

Key takeaways:

  • Child identity theft occurs when fraudsters use a minor’s personal information to illegally obtain credit.
  • You can contact the credit bureaus to check if your child has a credit report.
  • Placing a credit freeze on your child’s credit can stop fraudsters from opening credit accounts in your child’s name.

Identity theft is a widespread issue that can happen to anyone, even children. In fact, a Javelin survey revealed that approximately 1.7 million, or 1 in 43 children, were victims of identity fraud in 2022.

Since minors generally don’t have credit reports, they may not realize they’ve become victims until much later, thus making the consequences worse. Therefore, credit monitoring for minors is crucial for protecting your children’s financial future.

Read on to learn more about child identity theft and how to protect your children from becoming victims of this crime.

Table of contents:

What is child identity theft?

Child identity theft occurs when an individual steals a child’s personal details, such as their name, date of birth or Social Security number, to illegally secure credit or similar benefits. Identity thieves will use this information to open a credit card account, apply for a loan or even attempt to get government assistance.

Lack of age verification by creditors means this crime can remain hidden until a child turns 18 and applies for credit, only to discover that their credit score is much lower than it should be. Therefore, it’s important to take proactive steps to monitor your child’s credit so you’re alerted to potential signs of child identity theft.

What is credit monitoring?

Credit monitoring is a method of tracking updates to your credit report so that you can quickly address anything that seems suspicious. While it’s common for adults to keep track of their credit, many people are unaware that credit monitoring for minors is also recommended.

The three credit bureaus and some other financial companies offer child credit monitoring services. Typically, these companies charge a small fee of $10 – $20 per year to monitor your minor’s Social Security number to detect new credit accounts. Many credit monitoring products bundle children with adult subscriptions so your whole family is protected.

When you enroll your child in a credit monitoring service, you’ll get alerted if they find something suspicious so you can take quick action. Early detection is key when it comes to minimizing the damage of child identity theft.

How to check if your child has a credit report

Typically, children under the age of 18 don’t have credit reports. If your child does have a credit report, this could be a sign that their personal details have been compromised.

While you cannot access online credit reports for minors 13 years old or under due to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, you can write to the three credit bureaus to request that they check if your child has a credit report. In your letter, you’ll need to provide copies of the following documents:

  • Minor’s birth certificate
  • Minor’s Social Security card
  • Your driver’s license or other government-issued identification
  • If you’re not the minor’s parent, provide proof of legal authority, like foster care certification or guardianship papers

After you’ve compiled the necessary documents, send your request to the following addresses:

Equifax Experian TransUnion
P.O. Box 740241 Atlanta, GA 30374-0241 P.O. Box 2002 Allen, TX 75013 P.O. Box 2000 Chester, PA 19016

Note: TransUnion is the only credit bureau where you can check if your child has a credit report online via the Child Identity Theft Inquiry portal.

Once the credit bureaus receive this information, they will let you know whether or not your child has a credit report. According to Experian, you can expect to receive a response within 10 to 15 days.

How to place a credit freeze for minors

Another way to protect your children from identity theft is to place a credit freeze on their credit reports. A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, limits access to an individual’s credit report. This can help prevent criminals from stealing you children’s information to open lines of credit in their names, since lenders would not be able to pull their credit reports.

To place a credit freeze on your children’s accounts, complete the following steps:

  • Step 1: Compile the necessary documents, including your child’s birth certificate and Social Security card, along with your government-issued identification.
  • Step 2: Print and fill out the minor freeze request forms from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
  • Step 3: Send your requests via mail and wait for a response confirming that the credit freeze is in place.

If needed, you can quickly and easily remove a credit freeze by contacting the credit bureaus.

Steps to take if your child is a victim of identity theft

If you discover fraudulent accounts on your child’s credit report, follow these steps to address the issue:

  • Step 1: Reach out to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to file a child identity theft report.
  • Step 2: Contact law enforcement and request a police report.
  • Step 3: Get in touch with the creditors using the contact information displayed on the credit report to alert them about the fraud and request that they close the account.
  • Step 4: Set up a security fraud alert for your child’s credit report.
  • Step 5: Alert the national credit bureaus about the fraudulent activity.

Protecting yourself and your family from identity theft

When it comes to preventing child identity theft, talk to your children about the importance of safeguarding their personal information, and regularly monitor their online activities. Additionally, make sure you avoid giving out your child’s Social Security number unless absolutely necessary.

In addition to protecting your children, you should also monitor your credit regularly to ensure you’re protected from identity theft.

If you’ve already been a victim of identity theft, our Identity Theft Focus Track could help you repair your credit and address any false items on your credit reports. Included in this focus track is credit monitoring and alerts, identity insurance, credit bureau and lender intervention and a case update tracker.

Learn more about our service and get a free credit assessment today.

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