Why you need to check if your child has a credit report

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Imagine a 9-year-old swimming in credit card debt. Or a 13-year-old being hounded by bill collectors. Sound ridiculous? Well these are very real scenarios.

It turns out adults aren't the only demographic credit fraudsters threaten. Even children are at risk of having their identity stolen. In fact, child identity theft impacts 1 in 40 households with children under the age of 18, according to a 2012 survey by Javelin.

Children's credit reports are especially appealing to credit thieves, because minors' credit reports typically aren't used, so new accounts and delinquency marks can go unnoticed for months or years. And because fraudsters know they can get away with scamming a youngster's credit longer, they can open more accounts.

Moreover, according to the Federal Trade Commission, of the more than 410,000 identity theft complaints made in 2015, 5% targeted individuals aged 19 and under. And all they need is a Social Security number and their name.

Fraudsters get these Social Security numbers using a variety of avenues, including medical database breaches, school forms and paperwork or even family members. And a good indication your child's credit is being used includes calls from debt collectors and credit offers in the mail in your child's name.

So checking and possibly even monitoring your child's credit report is something to consider. At the very latest, it's a good idea to check by your child's 16th birthday. This will allow enough time to remove any fraudulent information from the file before your child turns 18 and could need a clean credit report in order to get a credit card or a private student loan.

You can also consider freezing your child's credit as an extra measure of protection. Some states even allow you to freeze their credit for free.

Paying attention to your child's credit report before they come of age will prevent any surprising disappointment when they're rejected for applications as an adult. And while you're at it, checking your own credit regularly can help you stay on top of whether there's any fraudulent activity taking place on your own report. You can get a free credit report snapshot, updated monthly, on Credit.com.

Related: Money-saving online hacks


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Why you need to check if your child has a credit report

1. Clear your browser history

Some retailers might sneakily increase prices based on your browsing patterns and demand - so make sure to always clear your history and cookies before shopping! 

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2. Use an alternate email address

When you log in to a retailer's site with a new email address, retailers will often welcome you as a new customer with exciting new promotions and discounts. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

3. Note price changes throughout the week

Another pro tip: Prices and deals can fluctuate based on the day of the week. For instance, if you're purchasing a flight, monitor prices for around a week to see if they take a dip on any particular day before purchasing. 

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4. Let items linger in your cart

Here's a hack: Add items to your cart, but let them sit for 24 hours before purchasing. The retailer might attempt to lure you back with additional discounts.

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5. Check out multiple sites

Do some research! Don't settle for the first price you see - poke around on a search engine and find the best deal. 

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6. Bargain with customer service

Use customer service to your advantage. If you ask (politely!) about an expired coupon, you'll often find yourself pleasantly surprised by an extension or new code! 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

7. Don't purchase impulsively

Try this shopping hack - don't buy that shiny, new toy right away. Step away for a few hours, and if you find yourself itching to go back and click 'purchase', then you know you won't regret your investment!

Photo credit: FogStock

8. Avoid shipping fees

Take advantage of free shipping! If you are a few dollars below the free shipping price point, add a low-cost filler item you need anyway (like socks!) and make the math work out in your favor. 

Photo credit: Alamy

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More from Credit.com
How to use free credit monitoring tools
How to get a personal loan with bad credit
How credit monitoring pays off down the road

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

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