Identity theft of minors is like adult identity theft on two levels: The ways in which to help prevent it are similar, and the actions you should take if it happens to you or your child are very much alike. Yet minor identity theft can be more damaging compared to adult identity theft because it often takes much longer for the victim to discover the crime.
Before digging into how to detect if your minor has become a victim of identity theft, let’s first go over one false warning. Just because you receive a credit card offer in your child’s name doesn’t mean they’ve become a victim. You can make sure of this by checking your child’s credit report with any of the three credit reporting agencies. And if, in response, they tell you that there isn’t a report to check, that’s fantastic; a report won’t normally exist until a minor has applied for credit themselves as an adult. Dane County Credit Union can help you request your child’s credit report if you need assistance.
Signs your minor’s identity has been stolen
If a minor becomes a victim of identity theft, parents or relatives are usually the ones who first take notice. Here are some warning signs that your child’s identity has been stolen and is being used fraudulently:
- You attempt to open a savings account or college fund for your child, and you discover that there is already an open account associated with your child’s Social Security Number.
- You receive a multitude of credit card offers, bills and/or bank statements in the child’s name, or collection agency calls concerning accounts in your child’s name.
- Your teenager is denied a driver’s license, employment, or a loan because another person has already done so with their Social Security Number.
- Law enforcement officers come to your door with an arrest warrant for your child.
If any of these have happened to you and your child, or you know that they’ve become a victim of identity theft; you need to place a security freeze on your child’s credit file. You may be asking, “Can’t security freezes only be placed on credit files that exist, and shouldn’t my child not yet have a file?” Well, you’re correct. However, Wisconsin residents may request a security freeze from any of the three credit reporting agencies even if the minor does not yet have a credit file, because initiating the request will create one.
In order to place a security freeze on your minor’s credit file, you must notify all three credit reporting agencies separately, and you must do so in writing. As with adult’s, security freezes generally cost $10, unless the minor is already a victim of identity theft. Here are instructions for contacting each of the three credit reporting agencies.
In your written request for a security freeze from Equifax you must include:
- Complete address and guardian name.
- A copy of said guardian’s Social Security Card or birth certificate, as well as a copy of any government issued identification or proof of address (Examples include a driver’s license or a copy of a recent utility bill).
- Complete address and name of the minor.
- Copy of the minor’s Social Security Card, as well as a copy of their birth certificate.
- If the minor is a person under guardianship or proof of authority, you also need an order issued by a court of law, a lawfully executed and valid power of attorney, or a written, signed and notarized description of authority.
- Mail these to: Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348
In your written request for a security freeze from Experian you must include:
- The guardian’s full name including middle initial, as well as date of birth.
- The guardian’s Social Security Number and complete addresses for the past two years.
- The $10 fee or valid report of alleged identity theft.
- A copy of said guardian’s government issued ID (Examples include a driver’s license or a state or military ID).
- A copy of said guardian’s utility bill, bank or insurance statement.
- The minor’s birth certificate and Social Security Card.
- If the minor has been appointed a guardian or conservator, you must include a signed court document indicating conservatorship or guardianship.
- Mail these to: Experian Security Freeze, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013.
In your written request for a security freeze from TransUnion you must include:
- A written request to place a protected consumer freeze on the minor’s file
- A document that indicates that you have proof of authority over the minor (Examples include court order, power of attorney or written, notarized and signed description of authority).
- The guardian’s Social Security Card, proof of name or address or copy of birth certificate.
- The minor’s Social Security Card, proof of name or address or copy of birth certificate.
- The $10 fee.
- Mail these to: TransUnion Protected Consumer Freeze, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022.
Keep up your guard
Even if your child has never become a victim of identity theft, it’s still good practice to check whether or not they have a credit file right around their 16th birthday. That way, just in case they do happen to have a credit file, there’s time to correct the fraud before they need to apply for a credit card or auto loan of their own.