Protecting your identity: Watch your child's ID as well

Imagine this: Your 15-year-old goes to apply for his first after-school job...and finds out he has a number of black marks for credit fraud marring his record. And you were worried about his report card?

According to some sources, 500,000 children are victims of identity theft every year. Minors comprise the fastest-growing segment of identity theft victims.

Great. Just one more thing for a parent to fret over.Criminals prey on kids because they have clean credit records, and most parents don't check their children's credit records (why would you?) so the crime can go undetected for years.

But, according to Experian, which has a website devoted to just this topic, the consequences of child identity theft include:
  • Difficulty getting accepted into college
  • Difficulty opening a savings account
  • Difficulty applying for a driver's license
  • Inability to secure a job
  • Arrest warrants in your child's name
  • Collection notices addressed to your child.
Naturally the credit rating companies (Experian, Equifax and Trans union), all offer monitoring systems to help you keep tabs on your credit rating. Although everyone is entitled to one free credit report a year, monitoring your report costs money.

What they don't want you to know, however, is that there is a low-cost way to freeze your credit report (or your child's). As our resident expert Lita Epstein wrote recently, as of November 1, 2007, you can write to each of the credit reporting concerns and request that they freeze your report, effectively keeping it out of the hands of both legitimate and illegitimate parties until you un-freeze it.

They'll do this for free if you've already been a victim of ID theft, but for $10, they'll do it regardless. This means that for $10, you can freeze your kids' credit report until you're ready to send them on their way.

With the problem of ID theft growing like, well, like a teenager, $10 and your time to freeze your child's credit report might be money well spent.
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