New parent? Protect your child’s credit!
Checklist for new parents:
- Freeze your child’s credit history
If the last item on the checklist caught you by surprise, you’re not alone—many parents don’t realize that protecting their child from identity theft starts at birth.
Last year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received nearly 14,000 complaints about identity theft of individuals 19 years old or younger. This kind of fraud occurs when a scammer steals a child’s personal information—such as social security number or date of birth—to open lines of credit in their name and make unauthorized purchases. Child identity theft is appealing to scammers because children have a clean credit profile and will likely not discover they’re a victim until years later when they try to open a credit card or apply for a loan.
How can I protect my child from identity theft?
Starting September 21, a federal law goes into effect that allows parents to freeze their child’s credit (and their own) for free. Freezing your child’s credit restricts access to their credit report and makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in their name. Parents can contact the three main credit reporting companies below to request a free credit freeze:
- Transunion: (800) 680-7289
- Experian: (888) 397-3742
- Equifax: (800) 525-6285
While a credit freeze can help protect your child from identity theft, it is not a foolproof solution. Here are some other ways to safeguard their information and help protect their identity:
- Pay attention to school forms. School forms often ask for your child’s personal information but be sure to ask how it will be used, stored, and disposed of. If a form asks for a Social Security number, ask if it is required and, if not, consider leaving it blank.
- Lock important paper records in a safe place. Prevent access to important information from burglars and visitors by storing documents in a drawer or cabinet that can be locked.
- Safely dispose of old documents and electronics. Shred old documents with your child’s personal information before throwing them away. Make sure old hard drives and mobile devices are wiped clean.
- Limit what you carry. Don’t carry Social Security cards in your purse or wallet.
- Don’t overshare on social media. If you provide too much identifying information online, an identity thief can use that to answer password “challenge questions” and gain access to important accounts with more sensitive information.
- Regularly check credit report: In addition to protecting your child’s credit, remember to safeguard your own. It is important to regularly check your credit report for unusual entries, and everyone is entitled to one free copy of their credit report every year from each of the national credit reporting bureaus above.
If you believe you are the victim of identity theft, contact our Office of Consumer Protection at (202) 442-9828 or by emailing . .
OAG has the authority to investigate and prosecute scammers who commit identity theft. AG Racine is committed to protecting the personal information of District residents from identity thieves and neglectful companies that don’t sufficiently protect consumer data.