Tips to protect your children’s identity and credit

A friend of mine told me that he received a promotion from one of the major credit bureaus offering – for a fee, of course – to protect his children’s online safety from identity theft.

But there was one little aspect that kept bothering him. “I couldn’t remember what it was, so I did some research online. It appears that last year this same company was involved in a data breach which, as one said. security magazine, seems to have disclosed the credit scores of nearly every American who has one. ‘”

No wonder my friend is a little confused. He decided to do what he could for his children by turning to the Federal Trade Commission. The agency has good advice for protecting the online identities of children and adults.

The first place to start with child safety is at school. The FTC tells parents that before handing over a child’s Social Security number, four questions must be answered: Why is the number needed? How will it be secure? Can another identifier be used? Can only the last four numbers be used?

With COVID-19 came a higher risk of identity theft, said Seena Gressin, an attorney for the FTC’s consumer and business education division. “In 2020, the FTC received approximately 1.4 million reports of identity theft, double the number in 2019. Identity thieves have repeatedly targeted government funds intended to help those hard hit. financially by the pandemic. “

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A child under the age of 18 with a Social Security number may also have a credit report – although he or his parents may not know it. The credit report may be for the fraudulent use of a credit card. To find out if there is a credit report associated with a Social Security number, contact the three credit bureaus that track credit scores.

Credit reports can be frozen to prevent their use to open new accounts or to prevent unauthorized use.

The parent of a child under the age of 16 can freeze and unfreeze the child’s credit report. The service is free, but must be performed for all three credit bureaus. After the age of 16, the child can freeze and unlock the account.

“While this is not a foolproof method, it can go a long way in preventing identity theft,” said Robert Siciliano, security expert and best-selling author of five books on Identity Protection. “Why? Because when a credit report is frozen, it is much more difficult for a cybercriminal to open a new account.”

If a person has to apply for new credit, “you can easily lift the freeze,” Siciliano said, adding: “At the end of the day, it’s just a financial safeguard.” Parents would be “irresponsible” if they did not freeze their children’s credit reports, he said.

Federal credit information laws allow one free report per year from each of the three bureaus in the United States. This is true for adults and children. To keep abreast of reports, FTC officials suggest requesting a report from a credit bureau every four months.

This way, you will receive a free credit report three times at which time it is time to start the cycle again. The three credit companies are: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.

Documents and invoices containing personal information – whether for children or adults – should be kept in a safe place. Don’t throw them in the trash when you’re done with them: use a shredder. If you don’t have a shredder, companies or governments sometimes have a “shredder day”.

For more information and ideas, visit the FTC website:

Lonnie Brown can be reached at [email protected].

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