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With thieves now stealing the identities of children, it’s becoming increasingly important to get a credit report at an earlier age. It’s always crucial to know if your own data has been compromised. If you’re 14 or older, you can request a copy of your credit report, according to the credit bureau Experian. If you’re younger, your parents can do it.

“Minors may request a copy of their report after the age of 14. Parents or legal guardians may request a credit history for their minor children with documentation proving they are the parent or legal guardian,” according to Sandra Bernardo, manager of consumer education at Experian.

What Are Credit Reports?

Credit reports are a detailed account of your credit history, and, if you are young, the report might not have much information on it. But let’s say you are an authorized user on your parent’s credit card account. Then your credit trail might have already begun, and as you get older and take on more financing, you establish more credit history. For example, if you get a car loan at 18, and pay it off every month, over time, it boosts your score. (If you miss payments, conversely, you’ll hurt your score.) It’s fiscally responsible to get into the habit of checking your credit report, because some reports contain errors that can be disputed. It can also provide a road map for what people with bad credit can do in order to improve. Besides, getting an annual credit report is free. (You can also view two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, for free on Credit.com.)

Employer Checks

Knowing whether you have good credit can help you see what others see about you. Many employers check a version of your credit report when you apply for a job, although some cities, like Manhattan, recently outlawed the process. In 2012, 47% of U.S. companies were conducting credit background checks, according to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Child Identity Theft

One in 40 households with children under 18 had at least one child whose personal information was compromised by identity fraud, according to the 2012 Child Identity Fraud Survey, conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research and sponsored by ITAC. If you suspect some one has been using your Social Security number, getting your credit report is especially important, because thieves can use your number to get loans and rent apartments, according to the Federal Trade Commission. According to the FTC website, warning signs that identity thieves have stolen a teen or child’s information are:

  • The child is turned down for government benefits because the benefits are being paid to another account using the child’s Social Security number.
  • The child gets a notice from the IRS saying the child didn’t pay income taxes or that the child’s Social Security number was used on another tax return.
  • The child gets collection calls or bills for products or services they didn’t receive.

With any of these red flags, you’ll need to contact the three credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — and ask for a manual search of the child’s file, which means the companies will check for files relating to the child’s name and Social Security number, and then conduct a separate search for the files only containing the Social Security number, according to the FTC.

Image: shironosov

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