When sending your children off to school, you may warn them about walking home alone or talking to strangers, but many parents may completely overlook a safety risk that can damage their children’s financial future.
The Federal Trade Commission warned parents to protect their children’s personal information while enrolling them for school.
Scammers use inactive Social Security numbers and other personal information to establish fake credit. Most parents don’t think to check their children’s credit reports, so the crime often goes unnoticed for years. When the child comes of age, his or her credit history has been trashed.
One report put out by CyLab shared a story of a 17-year-old girl who is $725,000 in debt because her Social Security number was stolen and linked to eight different suspects. The suspects opened 42 accounts including mortgages, auto loans and credit cards. Several bills were in collections.
BBB recommends parents check their children’s credit reports annually, when they are checking their own credit records. In addition, the FTC offered the following recommendations to protect your children’s personal information while they are in school:
- Find out who has access to your child’s personal information, and verify that the records are kept in a secure location.
- Pay attention to materials sent home with your child, through the mail or by email, that ask for personal information. Look for terms like “personally identifiable information,” “directory information,” and “opt-out.” Before you reveal any personal information about your child, find out how it will be used, whether it will be shared, and with whom.
- Read the annual notice schools must distribute that explains your rights under FERPA.This federal law protects the privacy of student education records, and gives you the right to:
- inspect and review your child’s education records;
- consent to the disclosure of personal information in the 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. FERPA requires schools to notify parents and guardians about their school directory policy, and give you the right 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 not only to the people in your child’s class and school, but also to the general public.
- Ask for a copy of your school’s policy on surveys. The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) gives you the right to see surveys and instructional materials before they are distributed to students.
- Consider programs that take place at the school but aren’t sponsored by 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, and make sure you understand how your child’s information will be used and shared.
- Take action if your child’s school experiences a data breach. 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.