I have been telling you about credit freezes for children since last September when a new federal law went into effect that permits consumers to freeze and unfreeze their credit reports for free. You can now freeze and unfreeze your credit at each of the major credit reporting bureaus at no cost. However, also important is that this new law was the first national law to protect children from identity theft. Parents can now create and freeze credit reports for their minor children. Child identity theft has become a major problem and until now only 29 states permitted the establishing and freezing of credit reports for children.
Child identity theft has grown as a problem in recent years. According to Javelin Strategy and Research, a million American children became victims of identity theft last year at a cost of 2.6 billion dollars in total losses to the families. Children have become a prime target of identity thieves who, if they are able to get identifying information on a child, such as the child’s Social Security number, can open a credit report on behalf of the child and obtain credit in the child’s name. The identity thief never pays back the money accessed through the child’s credit and the child is burdened with a bad credit report that can have a harmful effect on the child when he or she applies for credit, applies for a job, applies for a scholarship or seeks to rent an apartment. Often the identity theft is not discovered until years after it first happens which makes it more difficult to remedy.
Now for the good news and bad news. The good news is that the process for freezing your children’s credit reports at Experian and TransUnion has gone well. The bad news, however is that our dear friends at Equifax, whose negligence exposed Social Security numbers and other personal information of 143 million of us (including myself), have made it very frustratingly difficult to freeze children’s credit reports as expressed by Congressman Patrick McHenry of North Carolina at a recent Congressional hearing.
For more information about credit freezes check out this article I wrote for the Saturday Evening Post which described credit freezes in detail.
Here are links to the three major credit reporting bureaus with forms and instructions for freezing your children’s credit reports. Unlike freezing your own credit reports, children’s credit reports must be done through the mail. Remember it is important to freeze your child’s credit report at all three major credit reporting agencies and although it is difficult to do at Equifax, it is still important to do so.
Once you have frozen your children’s credit, be sure to keep the PIN and information on how to unfreeze your credit reports in a safe place.
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