If you’ve ever had your information exposed in a data breach, you know it can be stressful. Depending on what information is exposed, you might have to cancel credit or debit cards, change online passwords, or even put a freeze on your credit.
But what happens if your child’s personal information is exposed, too?
An identity thief could use your child’s Social Security number to get a job or a tax refund, open bank and credit card accounts, apply for a loan or rent a place to live. And what’s worse, it might be years before you or your child realizes there’s a problem.
So what can you do if your child’s information is exposed? First, check to see if your child has a credit report. Generally, children shouldn’t have credit reports — unless someone is using their information for fraud. Each credit bureau has its own process for checking:
- Experian — Click on “Minor Child Instructions” under “Information You Should Know”
If your child has a credit report, follow the credit bureau’s instructions for correcting fraudulent information. For help, visit IdentityTheft.gov or review the FTC’s information about child identity theft.
In some states, even if your child doesn’t have a credit report, you can place a freeze that will make it difficult for someone to use your child’s Social Security number to open new accounts. Each credit bureau has specific instructions for placing a freeze:
Even if you aren’t aware of any problems, it’s a good idea to check your child’s credit history when he or she turns 16. That gives you time to fix any unexpected problems — before your child applies for a loan, an apartment, or insurance.
To learn more about what you can do when there’s a data breach, visit IdentityTheft.gov/databreach.
About the Author
Nicole Fleming is a consumer education specialist at the Federal Trade Commission.
This blog post originally appeared in the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information Blog.