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Put this on your to-do list: Check your child's credit report

Maria Mora is a freelance writer and single mom fueled by coffee, questionable time management skills, toaster oven waffles and the color orange. She lives in Florida with her two young sons. If you see her on Twitter, tell her to stop p...

Make sure your child's credit is safe

Before you toss junk mail with your child’s name on it, consider how that mail came to be. If your child’s name is in a credit card database, it’s very possible her identity has been stolen. Your child may already have bad credit.
Does your child have bad credit?
Woman reading credit report

Learn how to protect your child by checking for credit fraud and preventing identity theft.

It’s horrifying to think that children can have bad credit, but thanks to the age of credit fraud and identity theft, it’s possible. Before your toddler starts getting credit card offers in the mail or debt collectors call for your 6-year old, learn how you can protect your child’s identity. Here are the steps you can take to check your child’s credit, why you should do it on an annual basis (just like your own!) and what to do if you find signs of fraud.

Be proactive with identity protection

Identity theft can lead to kids having fraudulent credit reports. Be proactive about protecting your child’s identity. There are very few reasons for you to give your child’s social security number to anyone. Schools and doctors' offices may ask, but they rarely need it. Refuse to share your child’s SSN unless you’re absolutely sure it’s required. Keep your child’s full name private. Don’t put it on your blog or in a public place that’s easy to find. Some kids have very common names that put them at greater risk, but you should still do what you can to keep your child’s identity private.

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Check for credit fraud annually

It isn't hard for criminals to use your child's social security number to obtain credit. When you check your own credit once a year, make time to monitor your child’s credit as well. This is not the same as running a credit check, and you should avoid running a free credit check online with your child’s social security number. Andrew Schrage, co-owner of Money Crashers Personal Finance, suggests that you call the three major credit bureaus by phone and request an inquiry into child identity theft. “Explain clearly that your only question is whether or not a credit report exists and that you want a manual search done by social security number only,” Schrage says. “That is the best route to go.”

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Consider identity and credit monitoring

If you’re concerned about identity theft, you’ve already experienced it or your child has a very common name, you may want to invest in identity and credit monitoring. Though not for everyone, these types of services can provide peace of mind and expertise for those very worried about credit fraud and other types of identity theft. TrustedId is a credit monitoring service recommended because of family packages that allow you to have your own identity monitored in a package along with your kids’.

Dispute credit fraud

If your child has bad credit as a result of fraud, you must take action to dispute the credit fraud. Andi Wrenn, MA, AFC, says that some bad credit can be the result of family members with similar names or the same address, rather than criminal intent. Regardless of the origin, you must help clear your child's credit. “Make a call to the creditor and explain that the person was a minor when the account was opened,” Wrenn suggests. “They will most likely ask for proof, but should be willing to work with parents and adults that have had this problem occur.”

More family finance tips

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5 Ways to teach your children to save

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