Credit Advice

How a minor may have a credit report

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Credit Advice

How a minor may have a credit report

Dear Experian,

I am teaching a class at a local high school about credit fraud. A teacher mentioned to me that her daughter, who is under 12 years of age, has credit according to one of the credit reporting companies. How is this possible?

- RDE

Dear RDE,

It is possible for a minor to have a credit report, but not the norm. It can happen in one of several ways.

The most common way is for the parent to include their child as joint account holder or list the child as an authorized user on one of their accounts. The lender will then report the account, creating a credit report using the minor’s identifying information.

Typically, this is seen with young teenagers who may spend time hanging out at the mall. As a matter of convenience, parents will make them an authorized user so they can use the credit card.

For obvious reasons, this could be a disastrous thing to do if you do not set clear boundaries on their spending, but it also can be a great way to teach a child how to use credit responsibly.

While at the mall, those same teenagers may apply for credit, sometimes using their name but false birthdates or perhaps some of their parent’s identifying information. That can result in creation of a credit report in the minor’s name.

Identity theft is the other possibility. Sadly, with children the most common perpetrators of fraud are their own parents or relatives.

To help protect children, Experian will not knowingly disclose a credit report that belongs to minor except to a parent or legal guardian.

You might ask the teacher if she knows why her daughter has a credit report. If she was able to get a copy of the report, she should be able to tell you exactly why, and it may not be as nefarious as it sounds.

Thanks for asking.

- The "Ask Experian" team

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