You want to keep your child safe. It’s every parent’s first instinct. From bumps and bruises to Stranger Danger and developmental milestones, we think about all of the different ways that we can protect our children. Yet, many of us overlook an easy way to keep our children financially safe: a credit freeze for kids
What is a Credit Freeze?
A credit freeze basically prevents people from accessing your credit report. While this move may not provide foolproof identity protection, it will certainly slow down the efforts of identity thieves. How? Without access to your credit report, it becomes much more difficult to open new accounts in your name.
When your credit is frozen, you are still able to obtain credit reports. You can also temporarily lift the freeze if you need access to your credit report. Essentially, a credit freeze is a financial safeguard.
What are the Benefits of a Credit Freeze for Kids?
Most adults can appreciate the importance of protecting our identities. After the Equifax data breach, online security marched to the forefront of most of our minds. Even though many of us doubled down on protecting ourselves, freezing our children’s credit might have slipped our minds.
It’s understandable. Children don’t use their credit, so we don’t have to give it much thought as parents. However, that is precisely why it can be so beneficial to freeze your child’s credit.
Any kind of identity theft is problematic. Child identity theft is deeply troublesome because it can go undetected for years, even decades. As a result, children are the most vulnerable identity theft targets. In fact, a Javelin Strategy & Research Study found that over one million kids were the victims of identity fraud in 2017.
By freezing your child’s credit when they are young, you have one more tool to keep their identity safe. It can help you proactively protect them while avoiding the time, hassle, and cost that comes with restoring someone’s identity. Additionally, when it is time to have their credit unfrozen as they get their first job, plan to purchase their first car, or need to access their credit for some other reason, it’s an important teachable moment.
Steps to Freeze Credit for Kids
When you consider what easy targets children are for identity theft, a credit freeze is an easy choice. Unfortunately, the steps to freeze kids’ credit can be cumbersome. Here’s how you might go about freezing your child’s credit:
Know The Three Credit Bureau
In order to properly freeze your child’s credit, you need to contact each of the credit bureaus. While Equifax and Experian are both probably household names, TransUnion may not be. It is important to remember that you must work with all three credit bureaus.
Gather Up the Documentation
Freezing your child’s credit requires you to provide information about you and your child. To stay organized during this process, you will want to gather your personal documentation and your child’s documentation before you begin filling out any of the forms.
Documentation you may need includes:
- A copy of a government ID
- A copy of your Social Security card
- A piece of US mail with your name and address on it (utility bill, bank statement, insurance statement, etc.)
Documentation your child may need includes:
- A copy of his or her birth certificate
- Foster care certification – if applicable
- A court order for guardianship – if applicable
- A copy of his or her Social Security card
You will also be required to provide your addresses for the past two years.
Fill Out the Forms
After you have gathered up all of the documentation, you are ready to work with each of the credit bureaus. It is vital to remember that you need to contact each bureau. Some people mistakenly assume that since they only check their credit reports with one bureau, that one is enough in this case, too. It is not.
Experian has specific paperwork for you to complete. Once they receive the paperwork, they indicate that they will place the freeze on the credit report within three days. Equifax has its own separate paperwork for you to complete, and TransUnion requires you to send a written request along with the required documents. As you work through this process, you will want to make sure that you are paying close attention to the different requirements specified by each credit bureau.
My Experience Freezing My Son’s Credit
In case you didn’t notice, freezing your children’s credit can be a complicated process. Each bureau has a different set of requirements and parents are left hoping for the best. This process can take up your precious time and add unnecessary stress to your life.
Since I was the victim of failed identity theft, it was a no-brainer to freeze my son’s credit. However, I wanted something to streamline the process and get it done right. Coincidently, one of my old roommates started Credit Parent to make freezing your child’s credit a breeze!
Instead of having to manually mail all the required documents outlined above to multiple addresses. You gather the documents ONCE, scan them, pay the fee, and voila! Credit Parent takes care of the rest. Of course, all the information is stored securely and once confirmation from the 3 agencies is obtained, Credit Parent destroys your information.
We used Credit Parent to freeze Jack’s credit. Easy peasy.
We did run into a snafu with Equifax … along with about 20% of other parents trying to freeze their child’s credit. My first few calls to Equifax were unfruitful. Thankfully, Credit Parent enlisted the help of the NY Times to uncover Equifax’s practice. A few phone calls and about a week later, I received a letter from Equifax that my son’s credit report was successfully frozen.
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Final Thoughts on Freezing Credit for Kids
Freezing your kids’ credit is not a decision to be taken lightly. After all, their credit is something that will impact them for the rest of their lives. Because your child’s credit makes identity theft much easier, a credit freeze is often a smart money move to make. The process can also be complicated. Either carefully following the specifications from each credit bureau or by using a tool like Credit Parent, freezing and unfreezing your child’s credit is one more way you can keep them safe.
Have you frozen your child’s credit?