How to Keep Credit Score Safe – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth


A North Texas college student reached out to our NBC 5 and Telemundo 39 Responde teams after learning about thousands of dollars in debt taken out in his name.

Read on what parents can do now to help safeguard their kids’ financial future.

‘IT’S REALLY STRESSFUL FOR ME

Not long after turning 18 years old, Josue Guevara said he went to his bank to apply for a credit card for the first time. That’s where he learned his credit was already in poor shape.

“Surprising for me. I ran out of words,” said Guevara.

Guevara said he found out about thousands of dollars in debt, racked up in his name, starting when he was just a baby.

“They even said that I owe $40,000 which is big for me because the highest amount that I’ve had in my hands is $100, not $40,000,” Guevara said.

The college student filed a police report and is working to untangle years of debt he says doesn’t belong to him. Guevara is worried he’ll have trouble securing student loans to further his education once his scholarships run out.

“I really want to fix this because it’s really stressful for me,” said Guevara.

KIDS’ IDENTITIES TARGETED

“The stories of child identity theft are absolutely heartbreaking because these are young people that are trying to launch,” said Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center.  

Velasquez explained kids’ identities are an attractive target for thieves. With a few data points including a Social Security number, full name and birthdate, Velasquez said a thief can make a few changes to start spending.

“There’s no file for that child in the credit reporting agencies, one will be then created with this new date of birth, the Social Security number and the thief is building up this credit file for this minor,” said Velasquez. “Often, they will exploit it and leverage it until they’ve got as many lines of credit all maxed out and then they walk away.”

While adults who are monitoring bank statements, tax returns and credit reports may catch a problem quickly, child identity theft can go undetected for years.

A Javelin Strategy & Research study published in 2021 estimates child ID fraud affects one out of 50 kids annually. The same study says children’s personal information is increasingly targeted by criminals and people the child may know.

Javelin’s study says most, 73 percent, of child ID victims know their perpetrators.

STEPS PARENTS CAN TAKE

Parents can take steps to make their kids a tougher target for identity theft.

First, find out if your child has a credit report at the three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

“You can, as a parent or legal guardian, check your child’s credit report or request one for free to make sure that nothing’s happening. If there’s no credit report in Experian’s files, that’s a good thing,” explains Rod Griffin, director of public education and advocacy at Experian.

Parents would have to fill out paperwork to prove they have a right to that information. If the child is under 16, parents can also place a freeze on their child’s credit report at each of the three credit bureaus for free.

Here are links to instructions for freezing a minor’s credit file at Experian, Equifax and Transunion.

Parents must fill out a freeze request and send it, along with copies of their child’s birth certificate and Social Security card, by mail.

“I understand some parents are leery of sending paper documents through the mail, and that’s a valid fear, but I’m more concerned about the child’s identity credentials already being out there in the wild, which they very likely are, and trying to reduce that risk surface by freezing the credit,” said Velasquez.

There are other safeguards parents can take. The Federal Trade Commission says parents should question any form or document that asks for personal information about their child. Ask if it’s truly necessary to share your child’s Social Security number on a standard form. If so, ask how that information will be protected and whether it’s possible to use a different identifier or just the last four digits of the child’s SSN.

Studies show people you know could pose a risk, so don’t overshare information about your child on social media. Monitor what your kids share, too.

RED FLAGS

Velasquez said parents should act quickly if they receive collections letters, bills, credit card offers or other personal financial correspondence in their child’s name. Don’t assume it’s a clerical error.

“It could just be a mistake, but you won’t know until you follow up. The sooner you catch these problems, the easier it is to address,” said Velasquez. 

If you are denied government benefits because someone is already using your child’s Social Security number, that’s a red flag. Parents should also take action if someone calls about an overdue bill in their child’s name, but it’s not an account you opened for the child.

RESOURCES

If you learn your child was the victim of identity theft, the FTC says you’ll have to report the fraudulent accounts. Contact each company’s fraud department to close the account. Ask for written confirmation that your child is not responsible for the charges.

Contact the three credit bureaus to report someone has used your child’s information. Ask for fraudulent accounts to be removed from your child’s credit report.

The Identify Theft Resource Center offers a helpline to walk consumers through steps they can take.

The Federal Trade Commission also has information about identifying and preventing child ID theft here.

If you’re the victim of identity theft, you can report it here.

NBC 5 Responds is committed to researching your concerns and recovering your money. Our goal is to get you answers and, if possible, solutions and a resolution. Call us at 844-5RESPND (844-573-7763) or fill out our customer complaint form.



Read More: How to Keep Credit Score Safe – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

2022-11-10 19:09:00

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