Your Child’s Credit Report: In contemporary time, the increase of credit fraud is an unfortunate sign that warns about the level of moral decadence in the society. The new strategy of fraud focuses on the children credit records (or financial account).
It is therefore advisable that parents today have to be extra vigilant in protecting their children from many harmful things. That means constantly checking their social media, phone texts, and credit reports for these fraudulent actors and activities.
Thus, are you a parent who is willing to know how to check your child’s credit report so as to curb financial fraud on it, this will be of great help to you. To be able to monitor your child’s credit report, you have to understand what a credit report is and how it works.
Understanding Credit Reports
Credit reports include personal information such as the individual’s current and previous addresses, Social Security numbers and employment history.
These reports also include a credit history summary such as the number and type of bank or credit card accounts that are past due or in good standing, and detailed account information related to high balances, credit limits and the date accounts were opened.
Having known what credit report is, you may be concerned with knowing how it works. Do not worry; this article is here for you.
How Credit Reports Work
In credit reports, information is divided into four sections. The top of the report contains personal information about the consumer.
In many cases, this section may include variations of the consumer’s name or social security number, simply because the information was reported incorrectly by a lender or other entity.
The second section comprises the bulk of most reports and includes detailed information on lines of credit, also called trade lines.
The third section includes public records such as bankruptcies, judgments and tax liens. The bottom of the report lists all of the entities that have recently asked to see the individual’s credit report.
Why you need to Check your Child’s Credit Report
The following are some of the reasons you should constantly check your child’s credit report:
Children are Targeted by Identity Thieves
Children are prime targets for identity theft because they have fresh social security numbers which have not been used to establish any accounts or credit.
Identity thieves have used stolen social security numbers to open fake credit card accounts, apply for mortgages, and obtain government benefits. One in 40 households with minor children have at least one child whose identity was stolen to establish fake accounts.
It is your Obligation as a Parent
Parents have the obligation to check to see if their children have a credit report in their name at least by the time they are 16. If you do find an incidence of fraud, you will have time to correct it before your child applies for a job, a credit card, financial aid, or needs to rent an apartment.
As a parent you are legally entitled to receive a free annual credit report from each of the three credit bureaus namely: Trans Union, Equifax and Experian. Technically, minors aged 14 or older may request their own reports, but you should not leave it up to your child to get this done.
If the child is over 18, they must request their own reports, so it would be important to encourage them to do so and help them through the process the first time.
How to Check your Child’s Credit Report
To check your child’s credit report visit the three credit bureaus (Trans Union, Equifax and Experian) all provide instructions on how parents can request reports for their minor children.
Also, you can start online to learn about each reporting agency’s process, but you may be required to mail in the request along with documentation. The process may vary a little between the three, but they all ask for the same information:
- Child’s legal name.
- Date of birth.
- Copy of the child’s birth certification and social security card.
You also need to provide a driver’s license or some other government-issued identification along with proof of address (such as a utility bill). If the parents are divorced, proof of legal custody also has to be provided.
How to check if your Child has a Credit Report with Credit Bureaus
You should request your child’s credit report from each of the three credit bureaus if you suspect fraud or identity theft. Checking your child’s credit report will require a manual search for files related to your child’s name or Social security number.
There are two ways to find out if your child has a credit report with Experian. The first step to take is to use Experian’s Child ID Scan service, which is free. You start by signing up for an Experian account and verifying your identity.
The next step is to add your child’s personal information. Experian will perform a scan using your child’s Social Security number and find out if it has any information on file. Finally, you can view the Child ID Scan report securely via Experian’s website.
Alternatively, you can check for your child’s credit report by submitting a written request and supporting documents to Experian via mail or Experian’s site. You can find the official form on its website. You should include:
- A copy of your government-issued ID, such as a state ID card or driver’s license.
- A copy of a bank statement or utility bill for proof of address.
- A list of any previous addresses where you’ve lived in the past two years.
- A copy of your child’s birth certificate with his or her full name, including middle initial and suffix.
- A copy of your child’s Social Security card.
To find out if your child has a credit report with Equifax and to request a copy, you will need to contact the Minor Child Department in writing. Equifax requires that you submit:
- A letter of explanation detailing why you believe your child’s personal information was obtained or used fraudulently.
- A copy of your child’s birth certificate.
- Documentation of your child’s Social Security number.
- A copy of your driver’s license or state-issued ID as proof of your current address.
If any of your photocopies are difficult to read, Equifax will ask you to resubmit your request with documents that are legible.
However, Trans Union warns parents not to send sensitive account information via email, as it could fall into the wrong hands.
According to Trans Union, the more detailed the information you provide, the better, since it will allow for a more thorough investigation. It will only use the information you provide to conduct the investigation and will never include it in any return correspondence to you.
What to Do If You Encounter Fraud
If you suspect suspicious activity, alert all three bureaus right away. You may also want to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission.
Another option is to place a freeze on your child’s credit. A credit freeze makes it impossible to open any new line of credit under your child’s name, unless the freeze is lifted.
Similar to requesting your child’s credit report, you have to go to each bureau to initiate a freeze. The good news is, thanks to the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act; credit bureaus are required to provide credit freezes at no cost.
Protecting Your Child’s Credit
In addition to monitoring your child’s credit reports, you can take a number of other precautions to protect his or her sensitive personal information.
- Keep your child’s Social Security card secure.
- Limit who has access to your child’s data.
- Shred everything.
Since children credit report can easily be manipulated, one of the easiest ways of curbing this fraudulent manipulation is carrying regular check on the report.