Minors and young adults typically can’t access financial products independently, which means most don’t have credit profiles. So why do many parents freeze their children’s reports, and how can you even go about it if your child doesn’t have one?
As counterintuitive as it may sound, a lack of a credit report is all the more reason to request a credit freeze for children. Your child is more likely to fall victim to financial fraud if they don’t have a report, and freezing their credit file can proactively counter this risk—to an extent.
This guide will show you how a credit freeze works and whether you should request one for your child. You’ll also learn how to do it and what else you can do to keep your child’s financial data out of harm’s way.
What Is a Child Credit Freeze?
A credit freeze makes a user’s credit file inaccessible to new creditors and most third parties. If a lender can’t access your credit report, they won’t consider you as a borrower. With this in mind, a credit freeze is typically done for two reasons:
- Preventing haphazard credit inquiries
- Stopping unauthorized parties from opening accounts in the individual’s name
Hard inquiries can damage your credit profile, so they should be kept to a minimum. Some people freeze their reports to avoid making impulsive inquiries and opening new credit accounts that would overwhelm them with debt.
The second reason is more common, though, especially when it comes to minors’ credit reports. Parents freeze their children’s files to preemptively keep malicious parties at bay.
If your child is under 16 years old, you must request a credit freeze for them—older minors and young adults can do it independently. If the child doesn’t have an established credit report, the credit bureau will open one and freeze it immediately.
Note that your child’s report won’t be inaccessible to everyone. Several institutions can see frozen credit reports, including:
- Existing creditors
- Government agencies (local, state, or federal)
- Collection agencies employed as a result of unpaid debt
This shouldn’t be a concern because the freeze would still fulfill its main purpose—preventing the opening of credit accounts with new financial institutions.
Should You Put a Credit Freeze on Children’s Reports?
Source: RODNAE Productions
A credit freeze can be a smart move toward identity theft prevention. It can also mitigate the aftermath of this crime to an extent so that the damage doesn’t get out of hand. If you believe your child may have fallen victim to identity fraud, you should freeze their report immediately.
Some of the tell-tale signs of child identity theft include:
- A credit report without a legitimate credit history
- Bills in the child’s name
- Credit cards or preapproval letters addressed to the child
You shouldn’t wait until you notice these signs to take action. Every parent wants to believe identity theft won’t happen to their child, but statistics show this issue is more common than you might think. One in 50 children falls victim to it annually, and such crime robs U.S. families of around $1 billion every year.
To understand why identity theft is so prevalent, you must know what makes children’s private information so valuable.
Why Fraudsters Target Children’s Information
Typical identity fraud involves impersonation—the fraudster steals someone’s Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and uses it to access their existing credit accounts or open new ones. Children are at risk of a more elaborate form of this crime—synthetic identity fraud.
Minors’ Social Security numbers (SSNs) are “clean” and unmonitored, so the perpetrator can combine them with fake information like names and addresses to forge a new identity. The following comparison from the Federal Reserve’s whitepaper on synthetic identity fraud shows the difference between conventional and synthetic identity fraud:
As shown above, synthetic identities are used to build a fresh credit record and defraud financial institutions. The goal of a credit freeze is to prevent this by ensuring new creditors can’t access the file until you unfreeze it.
How To Request a Credit Freeze for Kids
Helpful as it may be, a credit freeze still isn’t the most convenient way to protect your child’s credit report. To ensure there are no vulnerabilities a fraudster can exploit, you need to submit a request to all three credit bureaus:
Experian and Equifax have specific forms you must print and fill out, while TransUnion requires a written request. For security reasons, you can’t request a credit freeze for a child online but must mail the request alongside copies of personal documents to the following addresses:
|Credit Bureau||Mailing Address|
|Experian||Experian Security Freeze,|
P.O. Box 9554,
Allen, TX 75013
|Equifax||Equifax Information Services LLC,|
P.O. Box 105788,
Atlanta, GA 30348-5788
P.O. Box 380,
Woodlyn, PA 19094
The requested documentation may vary but typically includes copies of:
- Both parties’ Social Security cards
- Government-issued proof of identity
- The child’s birth certificate, court order, or other proof of the requestor’s authorization to place a credit freeze
If your child is 16 or older, they can request a freeze online by opening accounts with each credit bureau and using their portals. Some credit bureaus may also let them freeze and unfreeze the report through an app. Neither option is available to younger children, so you must mail printed paper copies of the requests and relevant documents.
Credit bureaus are legally obligated to freeze your child’s report no longer than three business days after receiving the request. Credit freezes are also free under the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act of 2018, so you won’t incur any fees.
Drawbacks of Placing a Credit Freeze on a Child
A credit freeze comes with a few caveats besides the inconvenience of having to obtain and mail paper copies of documents. Credit bureaus warn that they don’t guarantee protection and that their main use is to limit the damage the fraudster can do after stealing someone’s identity.
The reason for this is a lack of timely theft detection mechanisms. Checking in with the credit bureau is the most common way to spot signs of identity theft. If your child has a report without a legitimate credit history, it might be too late for prevention.
Another problem with freezing a child’s credit report is that doing so stunts their ability to build a strong credit profile. Their options are already quite limited as the CARD Act of 2009 made it hard for anyone under 21 to obtain credit cards, so there’s not much you can do to help besides adding a child to your card.
Even if you do, your child’s credit activity associated with the card will be deleted from their file when you remove them, so they’d have to start from scratch. Your child can’t get their own card or a loan as long as their credit report is frozen, so establishing and improving their credit score would be a struggle.
The good news is that there’s a way to reduce the risk of identity fraud while helping your child build credit early on—FreeKick.
FreeKick—Credit Building and Monitoring for Children and Young Adults
FreeKick is created by Austin Capital Bank, which is a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-insured (FDIC-insured) bank. It combines an FDIC-insured deposit account with additional services to help your child:
- Establish and build a credit profile
- Monitor their credit profile to detect identity fraud
If you’re tired of numerous monthly subscriptions, this will be good news for you. FreeKick is free with a one-time deposit, but you can also choose between two plans with smaller deposits and annual fees:
- Free—one-time FDIC-insured deposit of $2,500
- $49/Yr—one-time FDIC-insured deposit of $1,750
- $99/Yr—one-time FDIC-insured deposit of $1,000
How FreeKick Builds Your Child’s Credit Profile
You can give your child a significant financial advantage in three quick steps:
- Create an Account—Go to FreeKick.bank and choose from the above plans
- Set It and Forget It—When you sign up, FreeKick will start building 12 months of credit history without ongoing action needed on your part
- Keep Growing—After the subscription ends, you can renew it to let your child build another 12 months of credit history or cancel it and get your deposit back
If your child is a legal adult (18 and over in most states), FreeKick will immediately start reporting their payment history to the three nationwide credit bureaus. If they’re a minor (typically 14–17), credit history will be reported when they reach legal age, as credit bureaus only accept it for adults. Either way, your child will benefit greatly from building credit early, as doing so can save them over $200,000 throughout adulthood.
You can close your FreeKick account at any time! Note that while FreeKick doesn’t penalize early cancellations, no credit can ever be reported if your child is a minor at the time of closing the account due to the credit bureaus’ policies.
Reduce the Risk of Identity Fraud Through Credit Profile Monitoring With FreeKick
As a credit freeze might not give your child sufficient protection, FreeKick offers credit monitoring services to help you keep their information safe. Much like the credit-building service, the platform’s security measures don’t require a parent’s constant involvement.
Help your child get the financial stability and independence they need early on—sign up for FreeKick.
Featured image source: Towfiqu barbhuiya