I thought I would have a few more years until I had to deal with this, but the other day I was shocked to see that my nine-year-old daughter received a credit card offer in the mail for a student account. I have no idea where they got her information because everything that she is signed up for is in either me or my wife’s name and email address.
Naturally the Papa Bear instincts kicked in and I called the credit card company. Thankfully when I told them her age they quickly realized they had made a mistake, apologized, and took her name off their list for any future offers. The service rep could not answer how her name got there on the credit card offer list in the first place.
I was glad to see that at a minimum her credit card offer application wasn’t pre-approved, because that would be really ridiculous. Right now her only source of income is her bi-weekly allowance from cleaning her room and feeding the pets.
Didn’t Financial Institutions Learn Their Lesson Yet?
We were certainly not the first family this has happened to. Other parents have been shocked to see their kids receive a credit card offer in the mail. In some instances it may indicate that their identity has been stolen!
Obviously there is a problem with the system here. Everyone knows that credit card companies aggressively target college students and young adults that are just starting out (and likely to rack up large balances to which they can collect hefty interest fees upon).
However, I would have thought that after the Great Recession of 08’ that a little more discretion would be used. Rather than just soliciting everyone to fill out a credit card offer application, perhaps maybe there might be some quality standards in place to filter out people such as nine-year-olds. Maybe I’m expecting too much.
The Credit Card Offer – Marketing Towards Vulnerability:
Thankfully I’ve never had a problem with credit cards. I owe it to my Dad explaining to me at age 18 the basics of how quickly the interest charges can compound into an amount that you’ll never be able to pay off. And with that, I’ve always lived by very simple rules:
1) Never buy anything I couldn’t just otherwise buy with cash
2) Pay off my balance in full every month
That simple strategy has transformed years of purchases into a growing basket of credit card bonus rewards; this year topping out at over $1,000. When used properly a credit card be a major convenience.
But what about the kids and young adults without fathers, mothers, or people in their lives they can trust to protect them from these types of mistakes with credit card offers? Young adults are especially so anxious to prove their independence as adults that they neglect to seek advice on commitments such as this. But the devastation can be very real and take a long to fix.
So as stewards of financial knowledge, I see this as an obligation to protect those we know from bear-traps such as this. We can’t stop marketers from sending mail, emails, advertising on TV and in magazines, etc. But we can prepare our children, nieces, and nephews with the information they need to make good choices. Even if you don’t tell them directly, you should at least let them know that the invitation exists should they ever need your advice.
So for now, I hope to not see another credit card offer for my nine-year-old daughter. Papa Bear is watching!
Readers – Has anyone else’s kids received a credit card offer in the mail, at a ridiculously young age?
1) What is Keeping Me from a Perfect Credit Score?
2) Props to Chase Freedom’s Fraud Protection Service
3) The Process of Repairing Bad Credit
Image Credit: freedigitalphotos.net
Rohit @The Money Mail says
Wow, I am shocked! There should be a disclosure policy that lets you know where your information was sourced from. In absence of such policy, what is to protect consumers from misuse of their information.
I agree! As a father, I have the right to know where they got a minor’s information.
Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank says
That is absolutely disgraceful. Whats next, a credit card for my dog?
I wonder how many other children have credit cards issued to them without their parents knowing about it?
You might think that’s daft, but it has happened:
Matt, that’s hilarious! 10,000 pounds is not a bad credit limit, even for a Shih-Tzu!
Ha! I can just see it now … celebrities getting credit cards for their pets!
James @ Free in Ten Years says
That is disgusting! I haven’t heard of anyone that young getting pestered by a credit card company – that is worthy of a complaint.
John S @ Frugal Rules says
Wow, that’s nuts. I’ve heard of this happening before but not to us. Hearing stories like this really makes me wonder who they’re buying their info from. To answer your question, I don’t think they’ve learned one bit.
This is insane! Scary too! Can you imagine if she managed to activate it and get online to shop or something?! Technology is great and terrifying at the same time.
Thankfully I’m not sure she’d know what to do with it even if she wanted. But to your point, yes that could have been big trouble!
I’m pretty sure with the new credit card regulations put into place, she would not have actually been able to get a credit card. It is much harder for even college students to get them than it used to be.
I really hope so! I also doubt she could have actually opened it, but the thought is still scary that they would try to market to her anyways.
Jason @ WSL says
I think credit card companies want kids to sign up because they know they get saddle them with high interest rates. So yes, credit card companies learned their lesson: they will sign as many people up as possible at high interest rates and hope the odds work in their favor. lol. 🙂
That is absolutely insane your kid got a card though; I’ve never personally experienced this but I’ve heard you can get a card in your dog’s name as well!
I think the underlying practice of credit card companies is as old as the saying – a fool and his money are soon parted! Some things will never change.
Budget & the Beach says
Wow that’s just absurd! I think that vulnerability is most present in college. I think that’s where the credit cards really get people.
I’ve heard so many stories like this. It’s alarming, but it’s like these companies want to have people commit fraud on each other. The nine-year old isn’t going to get a card in most cases, but the stranger who accidently gets the unforwarded mail just might. I’m putting a freeze on my kids credit so this doesn’t happen.
Putting a freeze on their accounts might not be a bad idea! I’ll have to look into that.
Lance @ Money Life and More says
I don’t have kids but I would be tempted to have your daughter fill it out and apply to see if it was approved. If it was they would have a ton of explaining to do.
I’d love to see what they thought about her $10 a month (allowance) income. I bet their equations would still work out to where she got approved for a $50 or $100 limit, or something ridiculous like that!
Veronica @ Pelican on Money says
That’s crazy! I watched this documentary how some companies we’ve never heard of collect a book’s worth of pages of information on us. Their knowledge about us includes from all the basics – credit score, where we’ve lived our entire lives, who’s part of our family and where we shop – to some very creepy things like what type of advertising we click on online, exact list of products we buy in stores and so on… I also learned that those membership cards we use in stores collect all of our data which then gets sold to all sorts of other weird companies out there.
Let’s hope they won’t be sending her any offers any time soon!
Very insightful Veronica! I’d love to watch that show. Before Facebook went public, I had heard a lot of people say that that’s why Facebook was so valuable – because their databases are filled with so much details about our lives (all put there by us)! To a marketing agency, you couldn’t ask for more information.
Wow that is crazy! I didn’t receive my first one until I was 18, and my 19 year old sister JUST received her first.
That is crazy. The worst thing is they probably didn’t remove her, but just put a reminder 9 years from now to resent the offer!
My mum took me to the bank to get my first debit card at 12, and I had a little book to manage my account, I learned a lot about financial discipline then. No credit card until 16 or 18 I think.
I didn’t really learn much about having an account or managing my finances until I was 16 (after I got my first job). The credit card came at 18, but my Dad had already freaked me out about interest so much that I hardly bought anything.
Mo' Money Mo' Houses says
What? That’s insane!!!!
[email protected] says
I saw a Dateline or similar once where they applied for a credit card for a cat who was 3 years old and for a person who was deceased, and both got approved. I hoped the credit mess of the recession had helped, but obviously not. I guess we always need to be on alert.
A cat and a dead person got approved? Now that is some pretty big oversight! I love those Dateline type shows 🙂
[email protected] says
It’s scary how many children’s credit scores are destroyed before they’ve had a chance to open any credit at all. It just sickens me when I hear about a parent or family member who has opened up a card in a child’s name. The victim/child might not know about it for years, but there sure will be a lot of paper work for them to clear it all up.
That is pretty sick. Your family is supposed to be the one group you can trust without exception!
Jennifer Lynn @ Broke-Ass Student says
Resorting to ensnaring the tender young’uns now, I see. My daughter soon will be a year and a half. I wonder if she would qualify for a credit card? Little munchkin could be racking up the debt before she can talk, even!
[email protected] says
Oh my gosh. That is crazy! I’m glad that it was a mistake but it’s kind’ve creepy that they had her name and information!
DC @ Young Adult Money says
I don’t know of any kids who have received offers, but I would be surprised at what age they would get approved at. Your two simple rules are the same ones I follow – pay it off in full and only buy what you would buy with cash.
Words to live by! If more people just stuck to that, there would be a lot less credit card trouble!
Jason Clayton | frugal habits says
That would drive me bonkers as well… somehow, I don’t think it was a mistake. I could be wrong, but history has shown not to trust banks and credit card companies.
Definitely! When in doubt, error on the side of not believing them!
Not sure if this is what happened with your daughter, but I worked in a telemarketing call center once and sometimes we would get leads that turned out to be children. What happened is that they clicked on ads, downloads, or offers online and that harvested their information from the website or software they were using and sent it to us as a lead. All we needed was an address and name, not age.
Thanks for the insight Mike. She does have a “webkinz” account which could have lead to something like that.
Actually, this could be a sign that her identity has been compromised. I would suggest putting in a call to all three major credit bureaus to pull her reports and to place a security freeze on her credit.
I don’t want to alarm you, but your child’s personal info is used a lot more often than we realize (daycares, schools, doctor offices, health insurance companies and more) all of those places have employees and some could be of unscrupulous character. Her information could have been compromised. I have heard of children’s info being used to get employment, credit, buy houses and collect social security. Often, credit card offers are a sign that this may have happened to her. Much better to be safe than sorry!
I really hope this was a fluke, but please investigate further so her entire credit history and future are not destroyed.
Your concern is well received! I will pull both my kid’s credit reports during the Holiday break and see if there is anything fishy. Hopefully there is nothing, but its better to be safe then sorry!
Joe Morgan says
This is worrisome from an identity aspect, as you mentioned – where’d they get her information?
On a side note, two observations:
1). It may be a sign the economy is improving (if a return to indiscriminate lending is an improvement).
2). My cat once received a credit card offer back in the 90’s. It looks like not much has changed. 😉
Thanks Joe. I’m going to pull her credit report and see what I learn from it. Hopefully there will be nothing. I’ve received more comments telling me that their Cat got a credit card offer. How does that even happen?? 🙂
Adam Garcia says
I want to be surprised, but I’m not. Credit card companies prey upon young borrowers (though admittedly your daughter is a little too young).
I’m pretty sure they’ll send anyone with a name an offer.