How to Freeze Your Child’s Credit and Protect Against Identity Theft

A credit freeze for minors is one of the strongest ways parents can protect their child’s personal information and financial future.
Profile photo of Bev O'Shea
Written by Bev O'Shea
personal finance writer
Profile photo of Kathy Hinson
Edited by Kathy Hinson
Lead Assigning Editor
Fact Checked
Profile photo of Amanda Barroso
Co-written by Amanda Barroso
Lead Writer
Should You Freeze Your Child's Credit?

Many, or all, of the products featured on this page are from our advertising partners who compensate us when you take certain actions on our website or click to take an action on their website. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

Child identity theft is when a minor’s personal information is used to open fraudulent accounts in their name, and it can go undetected for years. According to the Federal Trade Commission, information like a child’s Social Security number, birth date or other personal identifying information can be used to open bank and utility accounts as well as apply for credit cards, loans and government benefits.

To help protect against child identity theft, parents and guardians can request the credit bureaus freeze the credit of a child younger than 16. If no credit file exists for the child — which should be the case — the credit bureaus must then create a file and freeze it. Sixteen- and 17-year-olds may request a freeze themselves.

"Credit bureaus don't knowingly create credit files for minors," says Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit that helps with ID theft prevention and recovery. "However, child identity theft continues to occur because the verification system for Social Security numbers continues to have challenges." Criminals may use a child's Social Security number to open fraudulent accounts, which is why verification is so important.

Thieves may even “create” a consumer by blending a child’s Social Security number with a different name, address and birth date, a practice called synthetic identity theft. Because parents have little reason to check whether a credit record exists for their child, the crime can go undetected for years.

Video preview image

Velasquez says she recommends that parents freeze their children’s credit, as it is one of the most robust proactive actions a parent or caretaker can take. A freeze will prevent criminals from using the child’s personal data to take out credit, creating a mess the family must clean up down the road. (And don't forget to freeze your own credit, too, to stop scammers from opening new credit accounts in your name.)

Here's a simplified way to freeze a child's credit, and some tips to protect against child identity theft.

How to freeze a child’s credit

You can freeze the credit of one or more minor children using the following protocols:

1. Gather the needed documents

The three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) have slightly different requirements. But to make the process simple and streamlined, simply send the same set of documents to each one. Each bureau will disregard extra documentation.

Here’s what you need to cover all three bureaus’ requirements. Make three sets of copies for each; don't send originals:

  • Your government-issued ID (usually a driver’s license).

  • Your birth certificate.

  • Your child’s birth certificate or other document showing you have the authority to act on the child’s behalf (foster care certification, power of attorney or court order).

  • Your Social Security card.

  • Your child’s Social Security card.

  • A utility bill or bank or insurance statement with your name and address on it.

Sort the copies into three piles, one for each credit bureau.

2. Print out child freeze request forms

If you're requesting freezes for more than one child, you'll need to fill out a form for each one. You can download the necessary forms from Equifax and Experian.

TransUnion doesn't have a form, but you can download this letter to fill out seeking a “protected consumer freeze” for your child.

3. Mail the request and document copies

You will send each form or letter, along with one set of documents, to each credit bureau. Below are the mailing addresses you need. Equifax and Experian list their mailing addresses on their freeze request forms.

Equifax Information Services LLC



P.O. Box 105788 Atlanta, GA 30348

P.O. Box 9554 Allen, TX 75013

P.O. Box 380 Woodlyn, PA 19094

Because you are mailing sensitive personal information, NerdWallet suggests using certified mail.

4. Wait for confirmation, then store it securely

Within three business days of receiving your request, the credit bureau should place the freeze. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the bureau must also send a notice by mail confirming the freeze within five business days of the request. This letter should include information about how to lift the freeze (whether that's using a PIN, password or another method). Keep this information in a safe place (a fireproof safe is ideal) and consider storing any PIN numbers or passwords using a secure password manager service.

The freeze will remain in place until you or your child unfreezes it later to apply for a credit card, car loan, student loans or other credit.

Earn up to $350 in rewards each year
With a Nerdwallet+ membership, it's easy to rack up rewards for the smart financial decisions you're already making.

How to protect your child from identity theft

Freezing your child’s credit will keep a criminal from opening credit in your child’s name, but it doesn't protect your child from identity theft entirely.

You can adopt habits to guard against child identity theft and teach your child to do the same.

  • Protect Social Security numbers. Many forms ask for a Social Security number without much explanation of how that information will be used. Unless you are told why that field is necessary and how the information will be protected, leave it blank.

  • Pay attention to mail. What's in your mailbox can provide clues about potential fraudulent activity in your child's name. For example, a credit preapproval offer in your child’s name doesn't necessarily indicate identity theft, but it's worth investigating. Correspondence from a collection agency addressed to your child is a huge red flag.

  • Keep your child’s documents locked away. Birth certificates and Social Security cards shouldn't be in your purse, wallet or car. Safeguard anything with that information in your own home. That means keeping paperwork with Social Security numbers inaccessible, possibly in a home safe or locked file cabinet, out of reach from service people and visitors.

  • Be careful about what you and your child share on social media. Fraudsters use even the smallest nuggets of personal information to piece together potential bank and other passwords.

  • Monitor health insurance claim information. A claim that doesn't make sense to you can indicate that your child’s personal information has been used to access health insurance benefits.

  • Wipe all electronics before disposing of them. Getting a new phone or computer laptop can be exciting, but don’t forget to erase the hard drives and reset phones to factory settings before recycling or reselling them. Most of these electronics contain private information and passwords that you don’t want to share.

Parents and other guardians also need to understand that a child’s data is not theirs to use, even if a child is in their care, Velasquez says. Parents or foster parents have sometimes used children’s unblemished records with noble intentions to get utilities connected or to set up mobile devices so that they can keep in touch with the family. But such actions constitute familial identity theft and can do major damage to the child's future credit.

Get more financial clarity with NerdWallet
Monitor your credit, track your spending and see all of your finances together in a single place.

What to do if you discover child identity theft

If you’re preparing to freeze your child’s credit and find an existing credit report, receive a suspicious bill in the mail or discover another red flag, it’s important to take immediate action.

  1. Contact the companies where fraudulent accounts were opened in the minor’s name and close them. Some companies have fraud departments you can work with directly. Be sure to ask for written confirmation that your child never opened the accounts, which might be useful in the future. 

  2. Freeze your child’s credit with all three credit bureaus. 

  3. Report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission.