Identity Theft: Are Kindergartners at Risk?

Sep 26, 2012

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Yes, it's back-to-school again. School supplies are fresh in-stock, kids are acclimating to school schedules, and teachers are challenging students to learn. One problem most parents don't think about is identity theft of their younger children. Do scammers prey on kindergarteners? Yes.

A new school year can bring out identity thieves. During registration, parents provide their child's confidential information such as Social Security numbers, birth dates, and more.

Carnegie Mellon University conducted a study on identity theft of children in 2011. The results show that of the children surveyed, 10 percent had their Social Security information stolen.

What to do? Federal law requires schools to notify parents about the school directory policy and gives you the right to opt-out of the release of data to third parties.

“The Federal Trade Commission urges parents to ask questions and carefully review all the registration and health forms, permission slips, student directory listings and other paperwork their kids bring home from school or extracurricular activities. After all, many thefts are inside jobs.”

Thieves will steal the information of children to buy a home, to get a job, to establish credit card accounts, to buy cars, or to obtain a driver's license. Stealing the identity of a child is ideal because the crime is not usually discovered for years. Why? Only when a teen starts to legally work is a social security number typically used in a traditional sense. As such, when a teen begins to establish herself in the world, the thieves have already used the information for years.

The FTC recommends self-policing in the educational environment by doing the following:

  • Determine who in the organization has access to your child's personal info; ask if records are kept in a secure location.
  • Before revealing information about your child, find out how it will be used, whether it will be shared and with whom. In official school forms, look for terms such as “personally identifiable" or "directory information" or "opt out.” Those terms are red flags.
  • Ask the school about its policy on publishing directory information. Some directories include more than a child's name, address, and phone number. It might also list an email address, birth date or include a photo.
  • Review registration forms used for after-school activities, such as athletics or music. These organizations may have websites where children are listed by name and photo.

In short, ask how your information will be used. It pays to ask.

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I work for Net Nanny. The opinions expressed here are my own.