credit freeze for my childUpdated: Oct. 12, 2017

Protection against identity theft requires potential victims to take preventative steps that make it harder for would-be thieves to get their hands on any personal information. With all of the security breaches these days, it almost guaranteed that some of your information, whether it’s your credit card number or your home address, was leaked at one point, which is why it’s essential for all consumers to take steps to protect themselves. One of the drastic steps consumers can take is to request a security freeze, or a credit freeze, on their credit reports, which completely locks down their credit until they temporarily or permanently remove the freeze. But with child identity theft being fairly common nowadays, is a freeze a great option for your child, too? Read on to find out if you can freeze your child’s credit and learn a few of the other steps parents can take to protect their child’s identity.

Is it possible to freeze my child’s credit?

The short answer is yes, but there are a handful of caveats to be aware of. The first and most important is that only 29 states currently have laws specifically allowing parents, guardians or other representatives to request credit freezes for minors. That said, Equifax and Experian elect to offer credit freezes for children in all states, regardless of specific state laws, while TransUnion only freezes a minor’s credit files if the state allows it. Equifax makes it easy, as the parent or guardian can request a freeze for their minor as long as they have the documentation required for requesting minor credit freezes. Learn more about the process at the Equifax Security Freeze Website. On the other hand, Experian’s process is a little bit more complicated. You must first request a copy of your child’s credit report from Experian and, if there isn’t one on file, you can choose to create a credit file for them, then have it frozen. Regardless of whether or not your state allows it, credit freezes must be set by contacting each bureau directly — you can find that contact information here. It’s important to note that you may be required to pay a small fee, usually under $10, if you’re freezing the credit files of a child who was not a victim of identity theft.

Should you freeze your child’s credit report?

Like many things with parenting, the decision is up to you, but before you go freezing your child’s credit reports, there is something you’ll want to consider. In order for a freeze to be active, a credit report must already exist, which means if your child isn’t a victim of identity theft, they won’t have one. While a number of states (and two of the credit bureaus) allow you to easily create credit reports and freeze them, you’ll want to know that it might cause more trouble than it’s worth because this process creates a paper trail where there previously was none. As such, although there’s no denying the effectiveness of a credit freeze, some experts argue that you’re better off not freezing your child’s credit unless their risk of identity theft suddenly increases. Of course, the decision is ultimately yours to make, and if you suspect your child’s identity of potentially being compromised, it is one of the best options capable of protecting them.

Are there alternatives?

If you’re not sure whether a credit freeze is the right choice for you and your child, there are two other options available to aid in the monitoring and protection of children’s identities.

1. Identity theft protection. Given both the increasing frequency and severity of child identity theft, a number of identity theft protection services offer child and/or family identity monitoring features. These services contain components like black market monitoring, which allow you to actively trace mentions and usage of your child’s personal information over the Internet, and public records scans. You can read this post to learn which services offer family plans, how much they cost and what protection they offer.

2. Set fraud alerts or flag your child’s social security number. Unlike credit freezes, which aren’t an option or solution for all families, fraud alerts are sometimes easier to request. When you place a fraud alert for your child, a note is added to your child’s credit files (if they have them) that requires a lender to verify their identity before it issues credit. Unlike credit freezes, which stay active until you remove them, fraud alerts expire every 90 days, so they’re something you’ll need to keep track of if you wish to utilize them. The FTC details everything you need to know about placing and managing fraud alerts.

Similarly, some states take extra steps to protect their minors from identity theft. For example, Utah’s Child Identity Protection program (CIP) allows parents to flag their child’s social security number and specifically designate it as belonging to a minor. Doing so enrolls the child’s information into a protected credit bureau database and makes it so that any usage of your child’s social security number will immediately raise suspicion. Essentially anyone verifying your child’s social security number will be instantly notified that it belongs to a minor, though if they’re duplicitous, they can choose to ignore the notification. Utah’s CIP is a step in the right direction, and clearly one of the best options available for protecting children’s identities, but it’s really one of the only programs of its kind. That said, there have been several attempts at making something like it available nationally, as well as actions to adopt similar plans in various states. If you live in Utah, it’s wise to take advantage of CIP, and those who don’t live in Utah can find out what their state’s current progress toward child identity protections is by contacting their state’s elected officials or doing a quick web search.

If you want more tips regarding identity theft prevention and your family, keep reading our identity theft protection blog.