My child is over 15 but under 18. Does that matter?
Yes. You may think of your 16-year-old as a minor, but adulthood arrives early in creditland, as soon as you turn 16.
Here’s how I’d handle a request for a 16-year-old. Go to the adult freeze sections of the bureaus’ websites and try to request a freeze there. You’ll probably be told that your teenager does not have a credit file yet and that you’ll have to mail in much or all of the same identifying information that you would have to send if your child were 12.
If you have a 16-year-old and a 12-year-old, figure out the situation with the 16-year-old first. If you can request an adult freeze online, great. If not, you can do all the photocopying and licking and stamping and cover-lettering in one fell swoop for both kids. But in that case, I’d use two envelopes. One is coming from an “adult” who may need to send the documents to a separate post office box or address.
How can this turn into a giant fiasco? There must be a way.
The quickest way to make a hash of your neatly frozen files is to misplace the personal identification number that the credit bureaus give you. You will need to provide the PIN when temporarily or permanently thawing your own file or when your child wants to do it some day many years from now.
So don’t lose the PIN. You can get a new one, but it might take weeks.
I did it! I can stop worrying now, right?
Nope. Thieves can still take control of your accounts, or find ways to impersonate you to steal your income-tax refunds, or use your information to get free medical care.
But credit freezes are the best tool we have to protect ourselves and our children from many kinds of identity fraud. Given how imperfect the security systems are that protect our data from the bad guys, I see no reason not to take advantage of free tools that can make us all a little bit safer.