Clark Howard

How Can I Make Freezing a Young Person’s Credit Less Risky?

Clark Howard often jokes on his podcast that his answer to most of his listener’s questions is Costco, Roth IRA or freeze your credit.

Want to protect your identity in any way? Freezing your credit is the best solution.

If you haven’t done it before, you may be surprised to learn it takes less than 10 minutes to freeze your credit at all three major credit bureaus. And you can do it online without talking to anyone.

Then it becomes extremely difficult for a would-be thief to steal your identity and open a credit line in your name. (It’s just as fast and simple to thaw your credit if you need to open a new credit line yourself.)

However, freezing your credit depends on having a credit profile. If you’re a ghost on paper, it’s more difficult. That’s especially true for children ages 16 and younger.

In fact, those 16 and younger typically must submit a request by mail — the old-school kind that requires postage. Not only that, but you have to send sensitive information in the mail, including the child’s Social Security number.

What do you do in that situation? Do you leave your child potentially vulnerable to identity theft? Or do you risk their sensitive information getting stolen in the mail?

That’s what a Clark listener recently asked.

Can I Freeze My Child’s Credit Without Mailing Sensitive Information?

Is there any way to freeze my child’s credit without sending personal information in the mail? Let’s find out.

Asked Natalie in Georgia: "I started 2024 by freezing my credit. I also tried to freeze my sons' but the process seems so crazy risky.

"Putting a form in the mail with ALL their personal details like copies of their Social Security numbers, birth certificates and current and previous addresses in a single physical envelope does not seem smart — especially when you have warned us all about even mailing checks.

"Is it really worth the risk? What are your thoughts and recommendations?"

Again, the problem with minor children is they typically don't have an identity with the major credit bureaus. That makes it complicated to freeze their credit.

You must mail sensitive information such as their Social Security number. And even if it doesn’t get stolen in the mail, it’s still risky.

The credit bureaus pay contractors “who knows where in the world,” Clark says, who “suddenly have all your personal information on your kid in their hands. And you’re hoping they’re going to be honest and they’re not going to use that information to steal your identity.”

That’s a terribly broken system, Clark says. Fortunately, there may be a workaround.

“Doing a credit freeze for someone 1 to 16 years old is a pain, pain, pain,” Clark says. “And the very process could create the identity theft issues you’re trying to prevent. Which you very wisely pointed out.

“There is an alternative that is really crazy that I figured out last year. Add your kid as an authorized user on your credit card even if they’re 1 year old. Then they have an identity with the credit bureau. And then it’s much easier to freeze their credit.”

Final Thoughts

You probably can freeze your child’s credit without sending their personal info in the mail — potentially to some unknown contractor.

Try adding your child as an authorized user on your credit card first. You don’t even need to give them a physical card. Once they have a credit profile with the bureaus, you may be able to freeze their credit online just as you would do for yourself.

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