With everything single moms need to worry about, it’s a shame we have to deal with this, too. But the child identity theft industry is huge, and it’s only getting bigger.

Unfortunately, most of us find out the hard way that our kids have been victimized…

You take your ten-year-old child to the bank to open a savings account, only to find out he already has a checking account and two credit cards in his name…

The IRS kicks back your tax return saying you can‘t take your daughter as a dependent because she has a full-time job.

Your child applies for his first student loans and finds out he’s already defaulted on more than $25,000 of debt.

Thieves especially love to use kids’ information because they can use it for years without anyone noticing. And by the time your child applies for student loans or tries to rent an apartment, their credit is already trashed.

You can protect your child’s credit – even if it’s already under attack – and make sure no one else takes advantage. All it takes is some patience (working with credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – can be very frustrating, as we’ve all found out in the past few weeks) and determination, and a few simple steps.

Find out if your child has a credit report.

If your child is under 18, they should not have a credit report (except in certain, very limited circumstances, like they already have their own credit card). You will have to jump through some annoying hoops to find this out, but it’s worth it. Ask all three credit agencies to manually search for your child’s credit file.

Keep copies of everything you send to the credit agencies, and detailed notes of any conversations. Include things like the exact time and date of the call, the name of the person you talked with, length of the conversation, and a summary of what you talked about.

The easiest place to start is with TransUnion because they offer a user-friendly online portal to get the process started.

Experian asks for a lot of information upfront in order to even check if your child has a credit report. For Experian, you’ll need to submit the form on the website plus all of the following (send copies, not original documents):

  • your child’s full name, including middle initial and generation (like JR or III)
  • your child’s birth date
  • a copy of your driver’s license or other government issued identification card
  • proof of your address (a copy of a lease or utility bill, for example)
  • a copy of your child’s birth certificate
  • a copy of your child’s Social Security card
  • your child’s previous addresses for the past two years

You can either submit that info online or mail it to them at this address:

PO Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013

As for Equifax, an exhaustive search of their website offers absolutely no guidance on how to find out if your child has a credit report, and phone wait times are extensive. Of course, they do make it easy to buy a protection plan for your child, whether they need it or not.

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) website offers information for how to deal with Equifax, but I haven’t been able to confirm it with the company. If the either of the other two agencies comes back with a credit report for your child, it pays to deal with Equifax as well, no matter how frustrating that will be. You can contact them online or call them (again, the wait times are ridiculously frustrating) at 866-447-7559.

If it turns out that your child is the victim of identity theft, start taking steps to repair the damage immediately.

When your child turns 16, check for a credit report. If they have one – and it isn’t really theirs – you’ll have enough time to deal with the problem before it’s time to apply for student loans.