Single moms, if your child has been the victim of identity theft, you’ll need to take specific steps to reverse the damage and protect him from future financial attacks.
This process can be really frustrating, so make sure your child has an existing credit report before you go through these steps. If there is one, pick a time when you have a couple of hours to focus (I know, how often do single moms have two free hours in a row – but it will take that long), put yourself into Mama Lion mode, make sure you have plenty of coffee (and snacks!) on hand, and dive into step one.
The first step of this process involves contacting all three credit agencies to ask them to delete all accounts, inquiries, and collection notices from your child’s file based on name and Social Security number. Ask each for a copy of your child’s credit report.
TransUnion: 800-680-7289 (this is a dedicated Child Identity Theft number)
Be aware: It’s extra hard to get in touch with the credit agencies right now because of the Equifax breach, so make sure you have plenty of time to kill (because we single moms have so much free time) before you call.
Next step: Place a “protected consumer” credit freeze with each of the agencies. This requires a bunch of documentation, and sometimes a fee depending on what state you’re in.
The Equifax website doesn’t seem to have a dedicated page for freezing a minor’s credit, and pretty much every page on their site leads to their “enroll in our protection services” promotion. Honestly, I’m pretty disgusted with their response, and that they’re so clearly trying to profit off the mess they’ve made of our privacy. Still, for a complete credit freeze for a minor you need to enlist them, so you’ll have to go through a second call.
Third: Place fraud alerts with all three agencies for your child’s credit report. For this, all you have to do is work with one company (I recommend TransUnion) and they notify the others for you.
Fourth: Contact all of the businesses that opened accounts for your child – you’ll find them all listed on the credit report – and demand they close the fraudulent accounts immediately. Also ask them to flag those accounts to demonstrate they were the result of identity theft.
Last step: File a fraud report with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). That can help investigators detect fraud patterns and find the thieves before they can do even more damage.
I know this is a lot to manage – I wish they made it easier for us than it is for the criminals. But our kids deserve a clean credit slate, and this is the way to do it.