Should I request credit reports for my children?
Children under age 18, with a few exceptions, generally do not have credit reports.
Credit reporting companies (sometimes called consumer reporting agencies or CRAs) create and maintain credit files with information about consumers, including experiences with credit. This information includes how often you make your payments on time, how much credit you have, how much credit you have available, how much credit you are using, and whether a debt or bill collector is collecting on money you owe.
It is rare for these companies to maintain a credit file about a child. However, sometimes a minor child can have a file if:
- A consumer with a similar name as your minor child obtained credit and a credit reporting company erroneously created a credit file for your minor child.
- An identity thief obtained a loan in your minor child’s name and a credit reporting company created a credit file with information about payment experience on the loan.
- Your minor child is an authorized user of your credit card, or someone else’s.
Credit reporting companies will not generate a credit report when they know that the information concerns a child. In other words, if a file about your child exists then a credit report should not be created or provided to anyone requesting the information until your child turns 18. However, you may request all the information in your child’s credit files from the credit reporting companies if you provide documents showing you are the child’s legal guardian.
It’s important to review and correct errors in the file now. The information in the file could become visible when your child turns 18 or could be visible now if a credit reporting company has an incorrect date of birth associated with the information.
If you notice specific red flags such as receiving bills, credit card offers, or debt collection calls in your child’s name, you may want to check if your minor child has a credit file as a result of an error or identity theft. Identity thieves may attempt, for example, to take out loans using children’s Social Security numbers because children have no credit blemishes and because the thief’s fraudulent activity may go undetected for years.
This tip sheet explains how you can check if your child has a credit report, dispute errors, or report a suspicion that your child was a victim of identity theft. It includes contact information for the three largest nationwide credit reporting companies.
Credit reporting companies also are required by law to provide access to reports to some minors, such as those in the child welfare system, earlier than age 18 so that they can check for identity theft. For more information about this, please see our tip sheet on helping youth in foster care start and maintain good credit.
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