Saturday, May 14, 2011

Stop ID thieves from ruining your kids credit...

I saw this on the Today show (May 12)  and had to share!
Please read all of this post, do not jump into checking your childs credit it is not recommended until age 16. This is just information for those of you who have children and resources for those of you who have had this horrible crime done to your children.

The issue for parents is this: What can I do to protect my child?

While the problem is clear, the solution is less so. The vast majority of kids don't have a credit report, and they shouldn't. In general, the Federal Trade Commission, the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center and the nation's credit bureaus advise against frequently checking your kids' credit unless there's some reason to believe they've been victimized by identity theft. Repeated requests for a child's report can actually do more harm than good. The Identity Theft Resource Center warns that it can lead to the premature creation of a credit file, which could make it easier for an ID thief to exploit the child’s identity.
Still, it's understandable that parents might want to check on their kids identities occasionally, particularly after hearing TODAY's story.  So here are a few helpful resources.
Getting a child credit report is different Standard advice for getting a credit report doesn't apply to children — kids' reports cannot be obtained using the congressionally mandated free credit report website, you should check your credit every year)  Requests for information on a juvenile from the site will be immediately rejected. There are legal reasons for this, according to Susan Henson of Experian, one of three major credit reporting bureaus  — the Children's Online Protection Act restricts the collection of information about kids under 13 years old. Also, information about a third party can only be disclosed after the requester provides proof of legal guardianship, and that can't be provided through the website. So all three bureaus require direct contact to get kids' credit reports.
First stop: Trans Union
Trans Union has the most parent-friendly process, with the only online application specifically for child inquiries, so that bureau is the best place to start. Detailed instructions are included on its site.

Parents who use this online form will receive an initial e-mail, and then a follow-up letter, which will include a simple yes/no answer on the existence of a credit report.
If Trans Union says there is no report, odds are good that your child is in the clear. But if there is a report — or you have a specific reason to believe your child is a victim — you'll want to follow up with the nation's other two major credit bureaus — Experian and Equifax — and get a report from them, too.
The Identity Theft Resource Center offers a handy form that parents can use to send to any of the three bureaus. It can be accessed here.
For children between 14 to 18 years old, the process is different — if they have a report, it would be possible to get a credit report through, but “the vast majority of consumers this age do not have a credit file,” Henson said. They generally receive a simple rejection message from the Web site, which might not be satisfying for a parent who fears their teen-ager’s identity has been stolen. In that case, follow the instructions above.
When should you check their credit, and what if there's foul play? Advice for concerned parents on this point is nuanced.  Both the FTC and the Identity Theft Resource Center say parents should not check their kids' credit reports on an annual basis.
Both agree that parents should attempt to obtain a credit report on the child's 16th birthday. Ideally, there won't be one yet; but if there is and it's full of errors, there should be ample time to deal with the problem before the child applies for college financial aid or their first loan. For kids under 16, under normal circumstances, an occasional check — perhaps every three or four years — is sufficient, said the FTC's Steven Toporoff.
But if there is a reason to suspect foul play, parents should immediately contact all three credit bureaus and request a report, he said. They also should consider placing a credit freeze on the child's records, following their state's particular policies.
State-by-state rules on applying for credit freezes can be found here.
Signs of foul play would include: Surprising offers for credit or other offers mailed to the home, or trouble opening bank accounts for the children. Also, strange identity-related questions when applying for schools or outside activities could be a tipoff. A bank or school might find that there are other identities linked to your child's SSN during a routine check. The bank probably won't tell a parent directly, but often, tellers will hint that there's a problem.
It's important to note that a child's identity could be compromised, even if there is no evidence on a credit report check. One particular kind of identity theft, called SSN-only ID theft, can escape traditional credit reports.  Most commonly associated with undocumented workers, a SSN-only thief uses someone else's Social Security number but his or her own name to obtain employment and credit.  Records of these imposters often end up in a separate file at the credit bureaus than that of the rightful holder of the SSN, and this file is not disclosed during regular consumer credit checks. If you have reason to believe your child's credit is compromised in this manner, a clean credit report — or no credit report at all — should not be taken as an absolute clean bill of health for the child's identity.
The Identity Theft Resource Center, for free, will assist parents in disputing all erroneous entries on credit reports. An FTC guide to disputing errors can be found here.
The agency will also help parents address the possibility that an imposter is using their child's identity to obtain a driver’s license or escape conviction records or child support payments. 
Several for-profit companies also offer to help parents protect their children's identities., mentioned in TODAY's story, is temporarily offering a free scan of its database of credit records for signs that a child's identity is compromised. Click here to visit the firm's website.
Experian offers a product called FamilySecure, priced at $20 a month, which promises to monitor for signs that a child's identity has been compromised.
It’s important to note, however, that none of these commercial products provide foolproof protection against child ID theft.

Again, please do not take this information lightly, I too wanted to check my childrens credit but I will follow their advice and wait until they are 16. Please google and watch the show before making any decisions, again it was aired May 12, 2011 on the Today Show.

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