Q&A: Checking Credit Reports for Children

Q&A: Checking Credit Reports for Children

Question: I saw your tweet about checking the credit history for children. I have two boys, ages 8 and 6. I entered their Social Security numbers into the free annual credit report website for the big three bureaus, but it said they don’t offer reports for kids under 13. What gives?

Ric: No, they don’t routinely produce credit reports for children (but, as of Jan. 1, they will at your request), but a child might have one anyway. That’s because a child might be an authorized user or joint account holder of an adult’s credit card account, or the child might be the victim of identity theft. So, yes, you can ask all three credit bureaus to search their databases to see if they have produced a credit report in the child’s name.

TransUnion has an online portal where parents or guardians can submit a child identity theft inquiry. If there is a credit report in the child’s name, TransUnion will contact you. Equifax and Experian require parents to mail a letter explaining that the minor child may be a victim of identity theft, along with copies of the child’s Social Security card, birth certificate and a parent’s driver’s license.

Experian doesn’t provide online access to credit reports for minors 13 years or younger because the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act restricts the online collection of personal information regarding children (not sure why TransUnion and Equifax operate differently). If you want to know whether Experian’s database contains credit information about your child, you need to write a letter. The address is P.O. Box 9530, Allen, TX 75013.

Originally published in Inside Personal Finance March 2016.

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