For thieves looking to commit identity fraud, children are often particularly attractive targets. Unlike adults, those under the age of 18 rarely, if ever, give much thought to the state of their credit – and neither do their parents. Since they don’t regularly check their credit reports, they might go months or even years without noticing that anything is amiss. Plus, as pointed out by the New York Times, youth credit reports are generally clean to begin with, which appeals to thieves. They know they have an opportunity to escape their own personal financial situations.
Indeed, a study of 40,000 children conducted by Carnegie Mellon CyLab in 2011 found that 10.2 percent appeared to have had their Social Security Numbers compromised by someone else. Child identity theft is a serious issue, and the consequences can persist for years even after it is discovered.
Unfortunately, children are only becoming more vulnerable to theft. As they start to use the internet and smart devices at increasingly younger ages, the odds of their personal information being stolen increases. This isn’t just true at home – school children are also at risk, thanks to the growing proliferation of educational software and apps and the general digitization of school records. But it’s not clear if policymakers are prepared to deal with this growing vulnerability.
Taking a stand on student data privacy
While federal student privacy laws exist, the quick pace of technological progress has rendered many of them obsolete. To fill the gap, states are stepping in to pass their own updated laws.
In Colorado, CBS Denver reports that the state Senate has passed a bill that will define when it is legal for data accumulated by in-class programs to identify K-12 students. Parents will be notified any time data is collected and will be told why. If companies collect any information that they have not been authorized to keep, they will be required by law to destroy it.
In addition, the bill would make it illegal for student data to be sold to third parties or used for advertising.
“If you fail to protect it, that’s when your contract will be cancelled …↑ and that’s what we will publicly display for all to see,” said state Senator Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs.
Even a small data loss can lead to identity theft
CBS Denver noted that schools regularly collect a wide range of data on students, including their home addresses, personal IDs, grades, behavioral issues and disciplinary actions. Some parents told the news source that they worried about student data hurting their children’s future job prospects if it ever became public.
This is a valid concern, but students likely have more to fear from identity theft affecting their present and future finances. It doesn’t take a large leak of information to potentially let thieves open financial accounts under children’s names, racking up debts that they will never need to pay and leaving the victims on the hook. That’s why it is so important for parents to pay closer attention to their children’s credit, as well as their own.
Even if your state has no plans to strengthen its student data privacy laws, you can still take action to protect your family. An identity theft protection service like Identity Guard can help by monitoring your credit files and Social Security Numbers. Our service will alert you to certain activity in your children’s credit files that could be indicative of fraud, allowing you to take the appropriate next steps.