All three major credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion—let users freeze their credit profiles. Some people do it to stop themselves from obtaining unnecessary credit, while others use it as a precaution to safeguard their sensitive information.
Freezing your own profile is relatively straightforward, but doing it for a child can be more complicated. This guide will focus on the TransUnion minor credit freeze to give you all the information you need to ensure your children’s credit information is safe. You’ll learn the following:
- How a credit freeze works, and who needs one
- How to freeze your child’s credit profile with TransUnion
- What credit freeze alternatives you should explore
What Is a Credit Freeze (And Why Should You Request One for Your Child)?
A credit freeze is a security measure that prevents new lenders and most third parties from accessing your credit profile. You can’t obtain additional credit while the freeze is active, and your credit information won’t be accessible to others—with some exceptions. Some institutions can still access your profile, most notably:
- Existing lenders
- Collection agencies
- Government agencies in specific circumstances
- Companies you’ve authorized to provide you with details of your credit report
These exceptions aren’t concerning because a credit freeze isn’t supposed to conceal credit information from the above institutions. Its main purpose is to stop malicious parties or unauthorized users from opening new credit accounts in the holder’s name.
As far as minors are concerned, they can’t build credit independently, so a credit freeze may seem unnecessary for many parents. This is a common misconception—and a dangerous one—as children’s inability to seek credit is the exact vulnerability financial criminals exploit.
Child Identity Theft—A Rising Issue
Source: Nikita Belokhonov
Minors’ sensitive information—particularly Social Security Numbers (SSNs)—is largely unused and unmonitored. This leaves room for an elaborate crime that affects numerous children—synthetic identity fraud.
Unlike typical impersonation, synthetic identity fraud involves a mix of a minor’s private information and fake personal details for the creation of a new identity. The perpetrator uses the identity to open fraudulent credit accounts and scam lenders. The following diagram from the Federal Reserve’s whitepaper on synthetic identity fraud explains this process in more detail:
Placing a credit freeze on your child’s profile may help you protect their information or mitigate the consequences of an existing theft. It prevents new accounts from being opened in your child’s name so that their SSN isn’t tied to fraudulent activity or excessive debt.
How To Request a TransUnion Child Credit Freeze
TransUnion lets users place a “protected consumer freeze” on their children’s credit profiles. Unlike freezing your own profile, the process isn’t possible through an online service or phone—you need to submit a written request.
Alongside the request, you need to provide the following:
- Proof of authority showing that you’re allowed to request the freeze in your child’s name (e.g., a court order, power of attorney, or proof of parentage)
- Copies of government-issued documents proving your and your child’s identities (e.g., a birth certificate, driver’s license, or Social Security card)
You should mail the above to TransUnion, P.O. Box 380, Woodlyn, PA 19094.
If your child has a credit profile, TransUnion will freeze it within three business days, as mandated by the governing legislation. If they don’t have one, the bureau will create a profile and freeze it immediately.
Note that a credit freeze placed with one bureau doesn’t extend to the others. Your child’s profile will still be accessible through Equifax and Experian, so you’ll need to request the freeze from these bureaus separately. Both bureaus have specific forms you need to fill out and send together with proof of authority and identity 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
Requesting a credit freeze from all three credit bureaus can be complicated and time-consuming, so many parents don’t do it unless there’s a specific need to protect their children’s information.
Signs Your Child Might Need a Credit Freeze
Source: RDNE Stock project
Child identity theft can go unnoticed, preventing parents from taking action on time. To ensure this crime doesn’t do excessive damage, request a credit freeze immediately if you notice any of the following red flags:
- Pre-approved credit card offers addressed to your child
- An existing credit profile without a legitimate credit history
- Denial of government benefits as a result of the child’s information having been used to obtain them
Of course, you can request a credit freeze proactively even if there are no signs of your child’s identity being compromised. The issue is that doing so can prevent them from establishing a genuine credit history, as they can’t open any credit accounts until the freeze is removed.
To keep your child’s information safe without limiting their future creditworthiness, you might want to consider certain measures beyond a credit freeze.
What Is the Best Alternative to Submitting a Minor Credit Freeze?
There are two common alternatives to a credit freeze:
- Fraud alert
- Credit lock
If you believe your child may have fallen victim to identity theft, you can request a fraud alert instead of a credit freeze. When the alert is placed on the child’s file, any attempt to open an account in their name will require a more extensive identity verification procedure.
A credit lock is similar to a freeze, except your child will have to place one themselves if they have a valid credit profile. This is typically done online through a dedicated service, and the child needs to have their own account (with each bureau) to lock their profile.
Secure as they may be, both of these methods are flawed. A fraud alert can’t proactively protect your child (as you’d place one after noticing fraudulent activity), while a lock places the same restrictions on your child’s credit-building efforts.
Build, Improve, and Protect Your Child’s Credit With FreeKick
FreeKick combines a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-insured (FDIC-insured) deposit account with additional services to let children aged 14 to 25 build credit on autopilot.
You can make a valuable investment in your child’s future and minimize the risk of someone misusing their information in three simple steps:
- Create an account
- Set it and forget it
- Keep growing
Step 1—Place an FDIC-Insured Deposit and Create Your Account
When you go to FreeKick.bank, you can select the deposit amount that suits your budget to create an account without cumbersome monthly subscriptions. You can choose between a free plan and two options with smaller deposits and low annual fees:
- Free—One-time FDIC-insured deposit of $2,500
- $49/year—One-time FDIC-insured deposit of $1,750
- $99/year—One-time FDIC-insured deposit of $1,000
Step 2—Set It and Forget It
Once your account is active, FreeKick will start building your child’s credit history through a no-interest installment loan paid from the deposit. Your child will get 12 months of credit history to kick-start their credit profile.
FreeKick will report the child’s payment history alongside all relevant information to the three major credit bureaus. Depending on your child’s age group, reporting will start at different points, as explained in the following table:
|Age Group||Credit Reporting|
|Minors (14–17)||Activated and performed once your child reaches legal age|
|Young adults (18 and over in most states)||Immediately active once you open the account|
Step 3—Keep Growing
When the 12-month period ends, you can renew the account for another term. With up to 48 months of credit history, your child can enter adulthood with a significant advantage—a strong credit profile can save them over $200,000 later in life!
Alternatively, you can close the account after a single term and get your deposit back. Account closure is also possible before the end of the 12-month period, so you can do it at any point without penalties. Bear in mind that credit bureaus only accept reporting for adults, so if you close it while your child is still a minor, no activity can be reported for the account.
FreeKick’s Ongoing Credit Profile Monitoring
While building your child’s credit profile, FreeKick will monitor it to stay vigilant for any red flags. This ensures you don’t need to single-handedly watch out for any errors on their profile or signs of fraudulent activity.
Keep your child’s credit profile monitored while maximizing their creditworthiness—sign up for FreeKick.
Featured image source: Scott Graham