Why You Need to Check If Your Child Has a Credit Report

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Imagine a 9-year-old swimming in credit card debt. Or a 13-year-old being hounded by bill collectors. Sound ridiculous? Well these are very real scenarios.

It turns out adults the only demographic credit fraudsters threaten. Even children are at risk of having their identity stolen. In fact, child identity theft impacts 1 in 40 households with children under the age of 18, according to a 2012 survey by Javelin.

Children’s credit reports are especially appealing to credit thieves, because minors’ credit reports typically aren’t used, so new accounts and delinquency marks can go unnoticed for months or years. And because fraudsters know they can get away with scamming a youngster’s credit longer, they can open more accounts.

Moreover, according to the Federal Trade Commission, of the more than 410,000 identity theft complaints made in 2015, 5% targeted individuals aged 19 and under. And all they need is a Social Security number and their name.

Fraudsters get these Social Security numbers using a variety of avenues, including medical database breaches, school forms and paperwork or even family members. And a good indication your child’s credit is being used includes calls from debt collectors and credit offers in the mail in your child’s name.

So checking and possibly even monitoring your child’s credit report is something to consider. At the very latest, it’s a good idea to check by your child’s 16th birthday. This will allow enough time to remove any fraudulent information from the file before your child turns 18 and could need a clean credit report in order to get a credit card or a private student loan.

You can also consider freezing your child’s credit as an extra measure of protection. Some states even allow you to freeze their credit for free.

Paying attention to your child’s credit report before they come of age will prevent any surprising disappointment when they’re rejected for applications as an adult. And while you’re at it, checking your own credit regularly can help you stay on top of whether there’s any fraudulent activity taking place on your own report. You can get a free credit report snapshot, updated monthly, on Credit.com.

[Offer: If you find your child’s credit reports have been compromised, and you don’t want to go it alone, you can hire companies – like our partner Lexington Law – to manage the credit repair process for you. Learn more about them here or call them at (844) 346-3296 for a free consultation.]

 

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The post Why You Need to Check If Your Child Has a Credit Report appeared first on Credit.com.

The Dos & Don’ts of Auto-Paying Your Bills

Missing payments on a loan, credit card or utility bill can do big damage to your credit score. Fortunately, many companies now let customers set up automatic bill payments tied to a card, checking account or third-party service. But there are some things to know before taking advantage. For starters, “you must not use the auto-pay as an excuse not to still check your detailed monthly statement carefully,” Thomas Nitzsche, media relations manager for ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions, said over email. You’ll still need to monitor credit card statements, and you’ll want to check bills to make sure that you’re being charged fairly.

Here are some other tips for auto-paying your bills.

1. Consider Your Plan

Some service providers charge a fee to pay with credit. And if you link your payments to a checking account, you’ll need to make sure you have enough money when the bill is set to debit so you don’t incur overdraft or late payment fees. Those on a tight budget “may need the flexibility of making the payment when you know the money is in the account, taking into account the billers’ grace period,” Nitzche says.

2. Don’t Set Every Bill

Any bill left unpaid long enough could wind up in collections and then hurt your credit. But not everyone should be debited automatically. “One item you may not want to put on auto billing is any subscription-type charge, which will auto-renew,” Nitzche warns. “The renewal notifications can easily slip past you and in some cases, they cannot be refunded once billed.”

3. Know Your Cards

If a card tied to auto-pay expires, a payment after the fact may get rejected—and yes, this could hurt your credit. To avoid this, “keep track of which bills are billing to which cards, and be sure to make updates if the card number or expiration date is renewed,” Nitzche says.

4. Beware Phishing Scams

Setting up auto-pay means turning over sensitive payment information to another third-party, which leaves you open to fraud. It’s a good idea to be vigilant should you learn any company you gave this data to is compromised. “Any emails, text or calls from the biller should be verified to ensure it is not fraud,” Nitzche says, noting phishing scams.

If you have reason to believe that your personal information has been compromised, keep an eye on your credit report. You can pull your free annual credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com and check your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com. A sudden drop in your score, mysterious addresses and new credit lines that you didn’t open could be signs your identity has been stolen.

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The post The Dos & Don’ts of Auto-Paying Your Bills appeared first on Credit.com.