When I started my business two years ago, one of the first things I was going to do and report back on was freezing my kids’ credit files. It had been on my mind for a while, ever since someone I knew personally had had an experience with her child being a victim of identity theft. I see my own credit report and credit score enough to be comfortable that no one had been actively opening false accounts in my name, but I had no assurances at all about my children. And if your child, like most children, doesn’t have a credit history, the credit bureaus won’t even have a file on them.
Most minor-related identity theft is perpetrated by a parent or other family member who has access to the child’s Social Security number. I didn’t think we knew anyone who would do such a thing, but the truth is that our kids SSNs are out there all over the place. I didn’t want to get a nasty surprise when my kids went to open their first credit card or applied for financial aid for the first time.
I had read what a hassle it is to freeze kids’ credit files, and so I just avoided doing anything about it for about six months, until each of my kids received a letter that his/her information had been exposed as part of an Anthem breach. And although this sounds like bad news, it was the opportunity I had been waiting for, because they were each offered a free credit freeze until they turned 18. Rather than having to figure out what forms to fill out, I had an application form in my hands, and I just had to get each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) the documents they needed.
Obviously, if your child wasn’t part of a breach, they’re not eligible for this program; however, hopefully my experience will give you some idea of what the process entails.
Freezing a child’s credit is far more complicated than freezing an adult’s credit, which is probably a good thing if our highest priority is to protect our children. In addition to the application form, I had to provide copies of the following:
- Child’s birth certificate
- Child’s Social Security card
- My driver’s license or other proof of my ID
- Proof of my address, such as a utility bill, phone bill, or bank statement
- Any proof of name change if my name wasn’t listed on my child’s birth certificate
I needed three copies of each of these for each of my four children (one for each credit agency). It wasn’t very difficult to complete; it just took some time to find and photocopy everything, and a special trip to the post office, as the envelopes looked like they might require extra postage (they didn’t – just barely). I also didn’t feel great about sticking copies of all these sensitive documents in the mail. But once I sent them, I received confirmation letters within a few weeks from each agency. Experian gave me a 10-digit PIN for each child; the other two gave me a list of documents I’d need to provide in order to remove the lock.
Here’s a helpful article if you’re looking to go through this yourself and you’re not being offered some kind of credit protection as the result of a security breach: