Beginning Sunday, California law will allow parents to freeze their children’s credit regardless if they have a credit file for purposes of protecting them from identity theft. Last year, about 18 million people were victims of some kind of identity theft.
Children are considered easy targets because of clean credit records. Michael Bruemmer, vice president of Consumer Protection at Experian explains: “Children’s personal information, such as a Social Security number, full name or home address, is used by thieves it to create a new identity and commit fraud. Unfortunately, when children are victims of identity theft and fraud, it often goes unnoticed for years.”
In a survey of 1,000 parents conducted by Experian.com earlier this year, only 16 percent of parents surveyed said they had ever checked to see if their children had a credit report.
How do you find out if your child’s credit has been compromised?
- Take notice of credit card and loan offers that might come in the mail. An influx might mean that someone is taking advantage of your child’s credit.
- Check your child’s credit report with all 3 bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
And if no credit report exists? That’s a good thing and means you’re most likely in the safe zone.
What can you do if you suspect your child is a victim?
Take these steps:
- Check for a credit report in your child’s name. If a credit report exists, it can be frozen.
- If you know of any accounts opened in your child’s name, contact the business and let them know the account is fraudulent.
- File a report with the FTC online or call 877-438-4338.
- File a police report with local law enforcement.
Is it recommended to freeze a child’s credit solely for the purpose of protecting their credit file for the future?
CBS News consumer reporter and managing editor of NewsMom.com Julie Watts, who ran a multipart investigative series about child identity theft in 2015-16. She also compiled a step-by-step guide to freezing your child’s credit on her newsmom.com blog. Watts explains: “If your kid does not have a credit file, a crook can still steal their identity and create one for them … unless their credit file is frozen. All of the ID theft experts that I’ve interviewed recommend that you freeze your kid’s credit. There is no reason not to.” According to Watts’ research and reports, the Federal Trade Commission, ID Theft Network and Identity Theft Council recommend freezing a minor’s credit file for full protection from credit fraud.
For information about how to freeze credit in California, visit here.
Jill Simonian is a Parenting Lifestyle Contributor, appearing on CBS Los Angeles every Wednesday on News at 5pm and Friday mornings at 6:45am. Her personal blog is TheFabMom.com. Follow Jill on Twitter @jillsimonian and connect with her on Facebook.