Friday, April 22, 2011

Checking Your Child’s Credit Report for ID Theft

A young man was denied his education loan because of a bad credit report. Why? Because he owed $6,000 to the electric company. How did that happen? When his mother moved to a different apartment, she had bad credit. She put the electric in the child’s name. Then she didn’t pay the bill. What she did is called identity theft. Because of the victim’s age and the amount, under Pennsylvania law, this is a felony and can result in a prison term.

There are many ways a child’s identity can be stolen and this is just one of them. Often it is a family member or someone the family knows. It could also be a stranger who deliberately targets children. Child identity theft is a common issue.

Adults can get a free report from each of the three credit bureaus once every 12 months at There is a different process for getting a minor’s credit report and it varies by credit bureau. Complete instructions for obtaining a child’s report can be found at If a report exists, it will contain information that doesn’t match the correct information of the minor child, a child under the age of 18.

If a minor child receives pre-approved credit card offers, it doesn’t necessarily indicate identity theft. It might be related to a college fund or savings account opened in the child’s name. The marketing department of an affiliate of your bank might not have known that the account was that of a minor.

The Identity Theft Resource Center does not recommend that you automatically check your child’s credit report annually, unless there are indications of a problem. To order reports unnecessarily may open a door to thieves because it could actually establish a credit report where none existed before.

Prevention of Identity Theft

While parents may not be able to prevent all cases of identity theft, steps that can be taken to reduce the opportunity can be found at Click on the Document Catalog button and scroll to Fact Sheet FS 120b, Child Identity Theft Indicators: A Guide for Parents. There you will find recommendations for parents and for students as well as red flags to on the lookout for.

If you suspect an identity theft may have occured, don't wait until you child is 18 to find out.

What experiences have you had with a child's identity being stolen?

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