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If you're a parent who's worked hard on improving your credit, you may wonder if your child also has their own credit report.
Typically, minors haven't built credit and don't have their own credit reports yet. But that's not always the case. Your child under 18 can potentially have a credit report in certain scenarios, and depending on the situation, it can either be harmless or a sign of fraud that necessitates action.
How to Find Out Whether Your Child Has a Credit Report
Unless you've taken proactive steps to help your young child develop a credit history, he or she most likely doesn't have a credit report. That's because credit reports are usually only created when you apply for and utilize credit products, like loans and credit cards.
However, certain circumstances could result in your child having a credit report sooner. Good or bad, it's important to see what's going on by checking your minor child's credit reports (if they exist) using these steps:
- First, gather the following documents:
- A copy of your driver's license or other government-issued identification
- Proof of your address, such as a utility bill or an insurance statement
- A copy of your child's birth certificate
- A copy of your child's Social Security card
- If you're not the parent, you might also need to present a document proving your legal guardianship
- Contact each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Exquifax) and request your child's credit report. Depending on the bureau, you may be able to do this by phone, snail mail or online form.
- If it turns out no credit report has been created for your child, you should be notified, but follow up if you haven't heard back. If there is a credit report on file, one should be provided to you.
Why Your Child Might Have a Credit Report
If your child is under 18, they likely won't have a credit report, but it's possible they could due to one of these situations:
- Authorized user: Minors can't sign a loan or credit card contract, but they can become authorized users on their parents' credit card accounts. If you add your child to your account as an authorized user, a credit report might be generated in his or her name (though not all lenders report authorized-user accounts to the credit bureaus).
- Joint account holder: While it's less common to add a minor as a full-on joint account holder due to the responsibility it carries, some parents may have opened a joint account with their child. Depending on the type of account, this can also result in the creation of a credit report for a minor.
- Identity theft: Another reason your child could have a credit report is as a result of child identity theft. If someone else used your child's name and Social Security number to open accounts, they will have a credit file showing these fraudulent accounts. Typically thieves use these accounts to borrow money and then don't repay it, so the accounts go delinquent and into collections, which could show up on your child's reports.
Warning Signs of Child Identity Theft
It can take some time between when identity theft is committed and when it's detected. By the time it's caught, your child's report may be riddled with fraudulent and past-due debts.
Proactively watch for these common red flags and warning signs of child identity theft so you can take action before any major damage is done:
- You receive calls from creditors or collections agencies about bills in your child's name (for accounts you didn't open).
- The IRS sends mail saying your child didn't pay their income taxes.
- You or your child are denied government benefits because someone is already using your child's Social Security number for benefits.
- Your child's application for student loans is denied.
- You receive bills or preapproved credit card offers in your child's name.
What to Do if Your Child Has a Credit Report
If you've found your child has a credit report containing only accurate information, you don't have to do anything.
On the other hand, if your child's credit report comes back with evidence of fraud, it's important to take action:
- Report the crime. Report the fraud with the Federal Trade Commission at IdentityTheft.gov. This creates a report you can use as proof, provides a recovery plan and guarantees you certain rights. You may also choose to file a police report, either over the phone or at your local station. You'll want to provide a copy of your FTC report and any other proof of theft.
- Freeze your child's credit file. Whether you spot proof of fraud or not, you have the right to lock down your child's credit report with a security freeze. Once in place, this security freeze limits potential lenders from accessing a credit report, so it helps prevent fraudsters from opening an account in your child's name. You may need a copy of your police report for this step. The freeze isn't lifted automatically; you'll have to notify the credit bureaus when you're ready to remove it.
- Contact the companies involved. It's also smart to reach out to the fraud department at the companies listed on the credit report and let them know someone opened an unauthorized account with your child's personal information. Request that they close the account and send written confirmation that your child isn't responsible for it.
- Contact the credit bureaus. You have the right to file a dispute asking the bureau to remove inaccurate or fraudulent information from your child's credit report. Include supporting documentation, and be clear that your child is a minor.
The Bottom Line
Identity theft and fraud can wreak havoc on credit reports and finances, and it can be a time-consuming and logistical nightmare to resolve. Whether you learn your child is a victim, or you want to ensure this doesn't happen, there are ways to proactively take steps to protect your child from identity theft.
One easy way to do this is to sign up for a family plan with Experian IdentityWorksSM. This identity protection plan covers two adults and up to 10 children, and it monitors credit reports, the dark web, people finder sites and more. It also includes identity theft insurance and fraud resolution support should you, your spouse or child become a victim.