As a parent, you’re probably familiarized with all the forms that you have to fill and sign when enrolling your child in school. But are you aware that as many as 140,000 children have their identities stolen each year?
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, in the wrong hands your child’s personal information can be used to commit fraud and your child could become a victim of identity theft. Furthermore, you may not learn about the crime for years, until your child is an adult, old enough to apply for jobs or loans.
There are laws in place to help safeguard your child’s personal information. The Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), enforced by the U.S. Department of Education, protects the privacy of student records. In addition, it also gives you the right to opt out of sharing contact information with third parties, including other families.
While there is no guarantee that identity theft can be avoided completely, as a parent you can take certain measures to protect your child’s information. Pay attention to materials sent home asking for personal information and, before you reveal information about your child, find out how it will be used, whether it will be shared and with whom.
Protect your child’s identity by doing the following:
• Verify that school records are kept in a secure location and find out who will have access to them.
• When filling out school forms or surveys, find out how it will be used and ask if the information will be shared and with whom.
• Read the notice schools must distribute that explains your rights under FERPA.
• Ask your child’s school about its directory information policy. FERPA requires schools to notify parents and guardians about their school directory policy, and gives you the right to opt out of the release of directory information to third parties.
• Ask for a copy of your school’s policy on surveys. The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) gives you the right to see such materials before they are distributed to students.
If your child’s school experiences a data breach, take action. 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.
The U.S. Department of Education takes complaints about these incidents. Contact the Family Policy Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20202-5920, and keep a copy for your records.
Guard your child’s Social Security number the way you should be guarding your own. Keep social security cards and written or stored records of social security numbers in a safe and secure location and shred documents that have personal information including social security numbers on them such as insurance forms, medical records, tax records, etc.
Be careful what you share on social media and limit revealing personal information that can make your children vulnerable to identity theft.