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You have the right to place a security freeze on your minor child's credit report (which creates a report for them if they don't already have one) to help protect your child's credit until they come of age. Here's how to freeze your child's credit.
Should I Freeze My Child's Credit?
Children under the age of 18 normally do not have credit reports, so if you have reason to believe your child has a credit report—because they received bills or credit card offers in the mail, for example—freezing those reports can nip illegal activity in the bud.
Placing a freeze on your child's credit until they are 18 and old enough to apply for credit themselves is a good idea. A security freeze prevents the use of a credit report for processing new loan or credit applications.
Even if your child has no credit report, or their report is legit (as it may be if an adult makes the child an authorized credit card user), a security freeze can prevent processing of unauthorized credit applications until the child comes of age.
How to Request a Security Freeze for a Minor
Take the following steps to freeze your child's Experian credit report:
1. Gather Necessary Documentation
You'll need copies of:
- Your government-issued ID card
- A piece of mail that shows your current address—a utility bill or a bank or insurance statement, for example
- Your child's birth certificate
- Your child's Social Security card
In addition, you'll need to furnish:
- Your full name
- Your Social Security number
- Your date of birth
- A list of all your home addresses for the past two years
2. Complete the Online Form
- Visit Experian's Child Identity Theft Protection webpage.
- Click the tab marked "Add or remove a security freeze for a minor."
- Fill in the form and, under the "Additional information" heading, click the button marked "Place a security freeze on your child's credit file."
- Click the blue "Print Form" button to create a hard copy of the completed form.
3. Submit Your Request by Mail or Overnight Delivery
Place the hard copy of the form along with the copies of your ID and your child's credentials in an envelope and send them to Experian.
If using U.S. mail, send them to:
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
If using overnight mail, send them to:
701 Experian Parkway
Allen, TX 75013
Once Experian receives the information, the security freeze will be added to the minor's Experian credit file within three business days.
4. Request Security Freezes at the Other Credit Bureaus
To fully freeze your child's credit, you'll need to request security freezes at all three national credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax). Each bureau's freeze-request process may differ, but all should require the same information.
Security freezes remain in place until the report owner requests their removal, so when your child is ready to apply for credit for themselves, they'll need to have the freezes lifted on all three of their credit reports.
Other Ways to Protect Your Child From Identity Theft
It'd be great if a credit freeze were all it took, but preventing child identity theft requires awareness and attention on multiple fronts. Here are some additional steps you can take to protect your kids:
- Address credit report entries that shouldn't exist. If your requests to freeze your child's credit reports reveal the existence of credit reports you didn't know about, address any accounts, credit applications and other activity that isn't your child's responsibility. Contact any creditors listed on the report to let them know your child was misrepresented. You have the right to file a dispute with the appropriate credit bureau to have bogus entries investigated and removed, and report any activity you believe is fraudulent to appropriate authorities.
- Safeguard Social Security numbers. Keep Social Security cards in a secure spot such as a safe deposit box and never share a child's Social Security number with anyone who doesn't have a very good reason for having it.
- Be safe on social media. When it's time for your kids to get on social media, discourage them from using their real names, limit their sharing to people in their network and make sure they include you in their networks so you can keep watch for suspicious friends or followers. Advise them not to overshare information about birthdays and to keep in mind that names of pets, schools and best friends—commonly used in security questions—can be abused by criminals.
- Use your contact information instead of your child's. Kids can be eager to share personal information without thinking. Even trustworthy companies can expose personal information in data breaches, so consider linking enrollments or subscriptions to your email or phone number, rather than the child's, to help you pick up on any suspicious activity.
- Teach your kids about identity theft. It's important for kids to understand identity theft risks. Help them see that phone calls, text messages and emails don't always come from where they say they do, and that they should check with you before replying to any that seek personal information. Also let them know it's OK to hang up on adult callers who ask for sensitive information, no matter who they say they are.
The Bottom Line
Placing a freeze on your child's credit until they come of age is a good way to protect them from identity theft. If you're concerned your child's personal data has been compromised or abused, consider Experian's family identity protection plans, which can alert you of misuse of personal data for up to 10 minor children.