California parents and guardians can help protect their children from the fraudulent use of their personal information. A parent or legal guardian of a child under 16 years of age may activate a "security freeze" of credit records in the child’s name. The security freeze, previously available only to California adults, is the strongest defense against certain types of identity theft.
Children make attractive targets for identity thieves. A child’s Social Security number is ap-pealing because it is usually "clean" and does not show up in fraud databases. The crime is often not discovered until the child comes of age, giving thieves years of unobserved use of the stolen identities and years to mar the credit histories of unsuspecting children.
For child victims, the consequences of identity theft are devastating. When victims become young adults and seek independent lives, banks, landlords, hiring managers, and utility companies discover victims’ negative credit histories and say "no deal," a roadblock to financial autonomy.
You can help shield your child’s credit history with a security freeze. Most businesses will not open credit accounts without first checking a consumer’s credit history. When a security freeze is in place, someone who applies to get credit using your child’s name and Social Security number will be rejected. Access to your child’s credit records will stay "frozen" until you say so, or until your child removes the freeze after reaching the age of 16.
As a parent or legal guardian of a child under the age of 16, you can place a freeze by con-tacting the three nationwide credit bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. You must provide the credit bureaus with certain informa¬tion and documents. See the instructions for each credit bureau at the end of this sheet.
Credit bureaus may charge up to $10 for placing a security freeze for a child under the age of 16. There are some exceptions, with no charge if the child is an identity theft victim or if the credit bureau has a record for the child.
Credit bureaus must place the freeze no later than 30 days after receiving your written request. The credit bureaus will send you written confirmation of the freeze within 10 days of its placement.
The freeze of a child's credit records remains in place until itis removed by the parent or guardian or by the child when he or she is 16 yearsold or older. Removing a freeze requires submitting a written request to thecredit bureaus, along with documentation similar to what is required forplacing the freeze. Credit bureaus may charge up to $10 for removing a securityfreeze. The credit bureaus must remove a freeze within 30 days after receivinga request for removal that provides the required information and fee, ifapplicable.
The California law that requires credit bureaus to comply with arequest for a security freeze from a parent or guardian of a child under 16years of age is California Civil Code sections 1785.11.9, 1785.11.10, and1785.11.11. The same provisions allow representatives of other types of"protected consumer," including children under 16 in foster care and personsfor whom a guardian or conservator has been appointed, to place a freeze.
For information on the security freeze process for Californiaadults, see our CIS 10: How to "Freeze" Your Credit Files.
Write a hard-copy letter to Equifax and request a "protectedconsumer security freeze."
Include in the body ofthe letter:
Attach with the letter:
Equifax does not charge a fee for placing a freeze for a childunder the age of 16.
Send letter and required documents by mail or fax:
Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, Georgia 30348
For more information, call the Equifax dedicated line forSecurity Freeze questions: (888) 298-0045.
Write a hard-copyletter to Experian and request a "protected consumer security freeze."
Include in the body ofthe letter:
Attach with the letter:
Experian charges a fee of $10 for placing a child security freeze, with certain exceptions.1 Payment is accepted by credit card, check, or money order. If you submit your credit card information by mail, be sure to include the name exactly as it is displayed on the card, the credit card type, the credit card number and the expiration date. Accepted credit cards are American Express, Discover, MasterCard and VISA.
Mail request letter and supporting documents to:
ATTN: Protected Consumer Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
Once all the required information is received, Experian will place the freeze within 30 days.
For information online refer to the Experian website.
Write a hard-copy letter to TransUnion and request a "protected consumer freeze."
Include in the body of the letter:
Enclose with the letter, one of the following qualifying documents indicating that the requestor has proof of authority to make the request on behalf of the child:
Enclose one of the following identification documents for both the child and the parent or legal guardian:
Enclose a check or money order for $10.2
Send the request letter and the supporting documents to:
P.O. Box 380
Woodlyn, PA 19094
For questions, contact TransUnion at (800) 916-8800. Tell the representative that you are calling about a "protected consumer freeze." For information online refer to the TransUnion website.
1 The exceptions include a child under 16 who is a victim of identity theft and a child under 16 for whom Experian has a credit record. There is no charge to freeze the files of such children. For more information on getting a police report of identity theft, see our CIS 3: Identity Theft Victim Checklist. Back to link 1
2 There is no fee if the child is a victim of identity theft, with a police report. See our CIS 3: Identity Theft Victim Checklist for more information on getting a police report of identity theft. Back to link 2