What Age Can I Have a Credit Report?
No one has access to a credit report of someone under 18 years old, except a parent or legal guardian. The credit reporting agencies don’t knowingly disclose a credit report that belongs to a minor, except to the aforementioned parent or legal guardian. However, just because your child is a minor it doesn’t mean that your child does not have a credit report.
A child can be an authorized user on their parents’ credit card accounts. An authorized user can use the account but does not have responsibility for payment. Parents give their child to a credit card for emergencies, shopping and/or to help them get their credit reports established. Because of this, a minor can have an account on their credit reports that is actually much older than they are. The credit card is reported on both the child and parent’s credit report. As a result, the child can either have good or poor credit depending upon the payment history and debt load of the account.
Identity theft CAN happen on a minor. Thieves stealing identifying information to open an account, such as a Social Security Number, can do this. And as sad as this is…parents and relatives commit identity theft in well over 1/3rd of cases.
Some of the signs that your child may have had their identity stolen:
- They receive pre-approved credit offers, instead of offers to apply.
- They open a legitimate account and find out that one already exists with the same creditor.
- They get calls or letters from collection agencies.
- They’re denied credit because of poor credit.
- A credit report already exists in their name.
Request a copy of credit report
- You can request a copy of a credit report for your child by going to annualcreditreport.com and complete the request form.
- Contact each credit reporting agency (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) and indicate that you are requesting the credit file of a minor and that you are the parent or legal guardian of that child. Send the request by certified mail, return receipt requested. Include a copy of your driver’s license, proof of address, such as a utility bill, addresses for the past two years, the child’s full name, a copy of the child’s Social Security card and a copy of the child’s birth certificate. Each credit reporting agency gives special treatment to minor child fraud.
When you receive the credit reports, pay attention to the personal information looking for addresses you don’t recognize and other names that are present. Check the accounts and collections sections to make sure accounts haven’t been opened, there are no bad debts or any collections.
If there is fraudulent activity, place a fraud alert on the credit report at each credit reporting agency and contact the police. Dispute the information on the credit reports, which can be done by contacting any one of the three credit reporting agencies, and they will contact the other two. You can also place a credit freeze on the account to prevent a new account from being opened.
It is a good idea to annually get your minor child’s credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies to make sure nothing is added to the account. It is important to safeguard your minor child’s credit. They don’t need to start with bad credit.
John Ulzheimer is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and a Contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry. Follow him on Twitter here.