Protecting Your Child From Identity Theft
Parents protect their children in many ways, but you may be overlooking one thing: their credit score. Here’s what you need to know to help your child have a clean financial slate for starting their life.
Secure important documents. Birth certificates, passports and social security cards should be secured under lock and key or carefully hidden out of sight. Avoid carrying these documents around with you. You might even consider storing them in a Safe Deposit Box.
Destroy papers with private information. Shred or burn documents with account numbers or identifying information.
Teach children to protect their own information. Tell kids that they should never give personal information such as a social security number or address to anyone over the phone or online.
Don’t worry about building your child’s credit. Some parents have the best intentions of applying for a credit card or other debt in their child’s name to give them a positive credit score. However, it’s best to wait, and let your child earn his or her own credit. It’s an important part of learning how to manage money and taking financial responsibility. There will be plenty of opportunities for your child to earn good credit later.
Never open accounts in your child’s name for your benefit. Though financial stress may be overwhelming, it’s dishonest to use your child’s information for your benefit, and it can be harmful for them in the long run.
Consider fraud protection. Search for products that can help protect your child’s identity such as the Secure Checking Account that First United offers which provides comprehensive ID protection for the whole family.
Watch for suspicious mail. Credit card offers and other financial promotions are a warning sign for identity theft for a child.
Check for a credit report in your child’s name. You should not be able to find one. If you find a credit report in your child’s name, they are likely already a victim of identity theft.
Report potential fraud. If you suspect fraud, contact the three credit reporting companies Transunion, Experian and Equifax. Additionally, you can create a free credit alert that lasts up to seven years. Keep records on the dates that you report the fraud and file copies of letters.
Check at age 16. If you have no other reason to suspect fraud, you may still want to check for a credit report near age 16. This will allow you to correct any errors before the child applies for a job or loan.
We all want to do what’s best for our kids, and protecting their identity and credit score will set them on the path for a financially strong future.