Protect Your Child’s Identity At School

The BBB recently published a piece about protecting you kids from identity theft at school. Take a look at these useful tips below!

Soon it will be time for your kids to head back to school. You’ve bought new clothes and all the required school supplies so you are set. But have you thought about your child’s identity being stolen? Probably not. But many schools require information from your child that could allow them to be a victim.

A child’s Social Security number can be used by identity thieves to apply for government benefits, open bank and credit card accounts, apply for a loan or utility service, or rent a place to live. Check for a credit report to see if your child’s information is being misused. If it is, visit to report and recover from identity theft.

Many school forms require personal and, sometimes, sensitive information. Find out how your child’s information is collected, used, stored, and thrown away. Your child’s personal information is protected by law. Asking schools and other organizations to safeguard your child’s information can help minimize your child’s risk of identity theft.

Warning Signs

Several signs can tip you off to the fact that someone is misusing your child’s personal information and committing fraud. For example, you or your child might:

  • be turned down for government benefits because the benefits are being paid to another account using your child’s Social Security number
  • get 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
  • get collection calls or bills for products or services you didn’t receive
Check for a Credit Report

If you think your child’s information is at risk, check whether your child has a credit report.

Contact each of the 3 nationwide credit reporting companies.

  • Ask for a manual search of the child’s file.

The companies will check for files relating to the child’s name and Social Security number, and for files related only to the child’s Social Security number.

The credit reporting companies may require copies of:

  • The child’s birth certificate listing parents.
  • The child’s Social Security card
  • The parent or guardian’s government-issued identification card, like a driver’s license, or copies of documents proving the adult is the child’s legal guardian.
  • Proof of address, like a utility bill, or credit card or insurance statement.

Update your files:

  • Record the dates you made calls or sent letters.
  • Keep copies of letters in your files. 
Limiting the Risks of Child Identity Theft

Laws safeguard your child and your family’s personal information. For example, the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), enforced by the U.S. Department of Education, protects the privacy of student records. It also gives parents of school-age kids the right to opt-out of sharing contact or other directory information with third parties, including other families.

If you’re a parent with a child who’s enrolled in school:

Find Out Who Has Access to Your Child’s Personal Information

Verify that the records are kept in a secure location.

Pay Attention to Forms From School

Forms that ask for personal information may come home with your child, or you may get them through the mail or by email. Look for terms like “personally identifiable information,” “directory information,” and “opt-out.” Find out how your child’s information will be used, whether it will be shared, and with whom.

Read the Notices From Your Child’s School

Your school will send home an annual notice that explain explains your rights under FERPA, including your right to:

  • inspect and review your child’s education records;
  • approve the disclosure of personal information in your child’s records; and
  • ask to correct errors in the records.
Ask Your Child’s School About its Directory Information Policy

Student directory information can include your child’s name, address, date of birth, telephone number, email address, and photo. If you want to opt-out of the release of directory information to third parties, it’s best to put your request in writing and keep a copy for your files. If you don’t opt-out, directory information may be available to the people in your child’s class and school, and to the general public.

Ask For a Copy of Your School’s Policy on Surveys

The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment gives you the right to see surveys and instructional materials before they are distributed to students.

Consider Other Programs That Take Place at the School

Your child may participate in programs, like sports and music activities, that aren’t formally sponsored by the school. These programs may have web sites where children are named and pictured. Read the privacy policies of these organizations to find out if — and how — your child’s information will be used and shared.

Take Action if Your Child’s School Experiences a Data Breach

Your child’s school or the school district may notify you of a data breach. If not, and you believe your child’s information has been compromised, contact the school to learn more. Talk with teachers, staff, or administrators about the incident and their practices. Keep a written record of your conversations. Write a letter to the appropriate administrator, and to the school board, if necessary.

For more great financial tips make sure to visit our Financial Education Center.