Youth: Taking Care of Your Credit
Authored By: Northwest Justice Project
4905EN - A clean credit history is the first step toward a lifetime of financial health. Credit reports and the credit scores you get from them are the main information sources that will determine the credit you can get (example: what size student loan you can take out and its interest rate), eligibility for housing, and some work opportunities.
- Why does my credit history matter?
- How do they determine my credit history?
- How old do I need to be to ask for a copy of my credit report?
- Do I get the credit report myself?
- What is identity theft?
- How can I protect important documents?
- How can I prevent online identity theft?
- Where can I get more info?
A clean credit history is the first step toward a lifetime of financial health. Credit reports and the credit scores you get from them are the main information sources that will determine the credit you can get (example: what size student loan you can take out and its interest rate), eligibility for housing, and some work opportunities.
*Our publication called Tenant Screening: Your Rights has more about the role your credit report might play when you apply for housing.
Credit is not just about credit cards. Utility, phone and medical bills, student loans, mortgages, and any other situation where you have to pay a person or institution all contribute to your credit rating.
You are entitled to ask for a copy of your credit report starting at age 14.
Only if you are 18 or older. If you are younger than 18, a grownup must ask for it on your behalf.
Someone who pretends to be another person, using the other person's name, Social Security number, birth date, address or other identifying information has committed identity theft. Someone who uses another person's Social Security number, name or credit card information to spend and borrow money has committed credit identity theft.
*Identity theft often involves a combination of personal information, for example, your Social Security number and birth date.
Be careful about sharing personal info with others. There is some info you should not share with anyone you do not know and trust, including relatives dealing with debt or substance abuse:
Social Security number
If you do choose to share your info, you should have a clear understanding of
why the person wants the information
how s/he will keep it safe
*Ask a grownup you trust (parent or relative, caseworker, mentor, other professional) for help finding comfortable ways to say "no" to people who want your information.
You should keep documents such as Social Security cards and birth certificates in a locked box or safe drawer where you live. You should always carry some form of ID, such as school ID or driver's license. Do not carry unnecessary ones, such as a passport, unless you need it. Do not carry your Social Security card unless you absolutely have to.
Shred all documents with personal information before disposing of them. If you do not have access to a shredder, you can cut or tear up such documents by hand to make sure names, addresses, birth dates, and other info are not accessible.
Beware of sellers of fake IDs. They can misuse information you share with them. They are sometimes part of criminal gangs. Buying a fake ID may put your identity in jeopardy.
Practice online safety. Before sharing information online, you should
know who you are sharing it with
only provide your identifying info through secure connections
*A secure website has a lock icon in the address bar and a URL that begins with https//.
Use strong passwords, ideally with at least eight characters that include numbers and symbols. Do not use any words found in the dictionary or names associated with them (examples: your name or your child's name).
Do not share your password with anyone.
Do not use the same password for everything.
Never store a password on a computer or allow a site to recognize it every time you log in, especially when using a public or friend's computer. Use a computer with updated antivirus and firewall protection.
Be careful about sharing files through peer-to-peer software.
Watch out for phishing scams. These are usually email or pop-up advertisements where the sender can get your private information (usernames, passwords, credit card accounts and other personal information) through the computer. These email/pop-up messages try to get you to click on a link or enter a website containing malware that will steal your private information.
These free online resources have info about credit:
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
For more about protecting yourself from identity theft, visit:
The Northwest Justice Project would like to acknowledge the Annie E. Casey Foundation as some of the text contained in this publication was gathered from publications on their website.
This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities. It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice.
This information is current as of January 2016.
© 2016 Northwest Justice Project — 1-888-201-1014
(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and to individuals for non-commercial purposes only.)