Protect your child’s identity

August 27, 2018

Kids are back in 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.

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.

Tips for keeping your child’s information safe:

• Safeguard your child’s Social Security number (SSN). Don’t carry your child’s Social Security card with you, and don’t share it unless you know and trust the other party. Ask why it’s necessary and how it will be protected. 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. Ask if you can use a different identifier, or use only the last four digits.

• Know your rights under FERPA. The Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects the privacy of student records. FERPA requires schools to notify parents and guardians about their school directory policy. It also gives you the right to opt out of sharing contact or other directory information with third parties, including other families.

• Limit what kids share online. Teach kids not to post their name, address or full date of birth on social media. For more tips, check out the FTC publication, Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids About Being Online. It offers practical tips and ideas for getting the conversation started about social networking, privacy, mobile devices, computer security, and dealing with cyberbullying.

• Use strong passwords on smartphones, tablets or laptops. Teach the importance of changing passwords and not sharing them. This is especially important for college students in a dorm or other shared living space.

• Use a shredder. Shred all documents with your child’s personal information before throwing them away.

• Check whether your child has a credit report close to the child’s 16th birthday. If there is one, and it has errors due to fraud or misuse, you will have time to correct it before your child applies for a job, seeks a loan for tuition or a car, or needs to rent an apartment. Use www.freecreditreport.com to receive your free (3) credit reports once every 12 months. If you find your child’s information is being misused, visit IdentityTheft.gov to report and recover from identity theft.

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