So, have you checked your minor child’s credit reports lately … or ever?
What’s that? You didn’t know your child had credit reports? Technically, they shouldn’t. Not unless you have opened credit lines for them yourself.
Unfortunately, because most children’s identities are so pristine, they’re especially tempting targets for identity thieves. These lowest of the low are looking to steal your child’s identity and sully their credit, sometimes before “Junior” can even walk, let alone go shopping. Many parents don’t know to keep an eye out for this growing threat, so thieves can often have a field day before you realize anything is amiss.
The cherry on the top of this awful mix: Once your child’s identity is stolen, you may not notice until they’re preparing for college, applying for their first line of credit, or embarking on similar adventures that are supposed to be fun and exciting.
Yuck. We’re using today’s post to call attention to this critical threat. We’re not the only ones, either. The Wall Street Journal recently published an excellent overview of the issue, including simple steps you can and should take to monitor your child’s credit, and how to proceed if you find a problem.
A good first step: Check to make sure your child doesn’t have a credit report you’re unaware of. You can do this by navigating to the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Recovery Steps page, scrolling down to “Special Forms of Identity Theft,” and selecting “Child Identity Theft.” Follow the directions there, and establish a schedule to repeat this activity periodically.
You might also consider proactively establishing lines of credit for your children, and then immediately freezing them. This can help prevent someone else from opening a bogus line of credit using your children’s identity.
Also, be on sharp lookout for warning signs. A prime example: your child starts receiving credit card offers or calls from collection agencies. In the past, you’d probably have laughed at these sorts of messages to your three-year-old. These days, they are likely to mean that somebody has stolen your child’s identity and is up to no good with it.
The moral of the story: You can go a long way toward protecting your kiddos and reducing your anxiety by following these steps.
If you feel inclined, do share this with others, and help us spread the word about this little-known threat.