Colored chalk on school chalkboard
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September 04, 2014

The beginning of a new school year usually means filling out paperwork like registration forms, health forms, and emergency contact forms, to name a few. This being said, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wants parents to be aware that many school forms require personal and sensitive information. If that information were to fall into the wrong hands, it could be used to commit identity fraud in your child's name.

The fact of the matter is that age makes no difference. A criminal can easily use a child's Social Security number to get government benefits, open bank and credit card accounts, or rent a place to live.

Most parents and guardians don't expect their child to have a credit file, and rarely order or monitor a child's credit report. As a result, child identity theft may go undetected for years, until the child applies for a job or loan and discovers past problems in a credit report.

To help limit the risks of child identity theft, the FTC is offering a free guide called Protecting Your Child's Personal Information at School. It explains how the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects the privacy of student records and gives parents of school-age children the right to opt out of sharing contact information with third parties.

It also suggests that parents ask their child's school about its directory information policy, learn about privacy policies of sports or music activities that are not school-sponsored, and find out what to do if their child's school experiences a data breach.

A second publication that will also help you keep your child's personal information safe, Safeguarding Your Child's Future, offers tips on how to keep your child's data safe at home and online, and explains the warning signs of child identity theft. It also explains how parents and guardians can check whether their child has a credit report, and what to do if the report has errors.