It’s back to school time, and in between shopping for great values on school supplies, parents are also being asked to fill out any number of forms for their child’s school. School registration forms may ask for everything from your child’s birthday to his or her Social Security number — vital private information that could be dangerous in the wrong hands.
While the paperwork feels like just another aspect of the back-to-school process, the personal information contained in these forms can be sensitive and could potentially be used to commit fraud in your child’s name.
Don’t risk your child’s identity! Educate yourself now about what you can do to protect your child’s privacy.
Identity Theft Can Happen to Anyone, Even Kids!
If identity theft is a headache for an adult, it can be a nightmare when it happens to a child. Says the FTC:
When children are victims of identity theft, the crime may go undetected for years — or at least until your child is old enough to apply for a job or a loan, or rent an apartment.
So before you fill out any forms for your child, ask the school where personal records are kept, who has access to them, and what safeguards are in place to protect your child’s privacy. Ask these questions with each request for information. The answer may be different for each form.
If a data breach occurs at your child’s school, follow up. Keep detailed records of all your conversations with teachers, administrators, and staff. Find out what information was exposed, how it happened, and what is being done to prevent future breaches.
If necessary, you can also file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education (make sure you keep a copy of this correspondence for your records as well).
The warning signs of child identity theft can seem bizarre: credit card offers coming in for your 10-year-old, or collections calls for medical treatments your child never had. But these signs are something to be taken seriously. If you suspect your child’s identity has been compromised, take action right away.
Protect Your Child’s Privacy: Know Your Rights
Some of the records schools keep on students don’t contain the kind of private information sought by identity thieves, but accuracy and privacy is still important. There are laws and regulations on the books to ensure the privacy and accuracy of educational records and to protect students’ privacy on educational surveys.
Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), parents (or students, once they’re over 18 or graduated high school) have the right to inspect educational records for inaccuracies and to limit how their records are shared.
FERPA also gives parents the right to opt out of sharing directory information – name, address, phone number – with third parties, including other families.
The Department of Education may conduct research surveys in schools under its purview, but under the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA), you have the right to see any materials used for this purpose in advance of the surveys, and in some cases, ask that your child not participate. Ask your school for its complete survey policy.
Know First, Don’t Ask Questions Later
If you’ve had difficulties keeping your child’s personal information private, tell us your story in the comments below.
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