Don’t Be a Victim of Identity Theft This Holiday Season. Protect Your Little Ones As Well. – By Belinda Tsui AIF®, CFP®

You’ve made your list.  You’ve checked it twice.  But did you forget something?… Don’t be a victim of identity theft this holiday season. Protect your little ones as well.

It is no surprise that December is National Identity Theft Awareness Month.  As consumers are busy shopping for presents and gifts at the stores or online, we are leaving traces of our personal identifiable information behind.  In all honesty, it is not difficult for anyone to steal another person’s identity these days. When was the last time you did an online search of your name?  Do you realize the amount of information that the internet has on you?  You are very lucky if you have a very popular common name with thousands of search result hits.   Otherwise, with a more unique name, you are highly searchable on the internet.  Without even sparing a penny, others can easily find on the internet, your birthday, current and/or previous address(es), family and relative names, current and/or former employer(s), just to name a few.

To make matters worse, I personally have lost track of the number of times I received notices from companies informing me that as a result of their data breach, my identity information was compromised.  Usually, the companies would offer a measly one-year credit monitoring service as a form of retribution.  Nonetheless, your information is out there, and there’s no guarantee when or where identity thieves will use it.  Credit monitoring services alert you after the fact when accounts are opened under your name.   As the consumer, you have to rectify the situation by notifying the financial institution and the credit bureaus when damage is already done.

As the famous Benjamin Franklin quote goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Most of us should not be applying for credit and opening accounts frequently.  Rather than find out that some identity thief has utilized your identity to apply for credit, the best way to prevent our credit from being stolen is to freeze our credit, basically restrict your credit report from access.  Therefore, no credit can be granted.  The credit freeze itself is free, and as of September 2018, lifting a credit freeze is also free.  There’s no reason not to take extra steps to protect your credit and avoid the headache when something goes wrong.  The three major credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

One thing that is often overlooked is the protection of credit files for minors.  Little ones are most vulnerable to identity theft because they would not be applying for credit until the age of majority, which will be quite a long time.  This is exactly what makes them a great target.  In addition, they have a blank slate for an identity thief to work with.  If someone takes over their credit report, years have gone by before someone takes notice, and a lot of damage is done.

First, you have to check if a credit report already exists for the minor.  Experian provides for a check on a credit report for a minor on their website.

If no hits are found, congratulations!  No one has used the minor’s identity information to apply for credit.  The next step is to freeze the credit report.  Unfortunately, you would need to contact all 3 major credit bureaus to freeze a credit report.  The 3 major credit bureaus operate independently from each other.  That’s why your credit score is different with each of the credit bureaus, as there can be differences in what and how things are reported.

Information on How to Freeze a Minor’s Credit Report

For your convenience, here are some helpful links for additional information on how to freeze a minor’s credit report at each of the credit bureaus.  All three credit bureaus will require substantiating documents to accompany the request to prove the identity of the person making the request and that of the child.

For this holiday season, give the gift of future financial security by protecting your child’s credit file.

1. Equifax

2. Experian

Experian is the only credit bureau that allows you to submit documents electronically online.

3. TransUnion.

TransUnion is the only credit bureau without a form.  You will need to draft a written request to put a freeze on the minor’s file.  The requirements are below:

Credit Freeze | Freeze My Credit | TransUnion

  1.  Attach to the letter one document that proves you have authority to act on behalf of the minor.
    1. An order issued by a court of law
    2. A lawfully executed and valid power of attorney
    3. A document issued by a federal, state, or local government agency in the United States showing proof of parentage, including a birth certificate
    4. With respect to a protected consumer who has been placed in a foster care setting, a written communication from a county welfare department or its agent or designee, or a county probation department or its agent or designee, certifying that the protected consumer is in a foster care setting under its jurisdiction.
  1. Copy of documents that provide proof of identification
    1. A social security number or a copy of a social security card issued by the Social Security Administration
    2. A certified or official copy of a birth certificate issued by the entity authorized to issue the birth certificate
    3. A copy of a driver’s license, an identification card issued by the motor vehicle administration, or any other government-issued identification
  1. Mail to:


P.O. Box 380

Woodlyn, PA 19094