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The Resource Center Child Identity Theft & Protection | article

Ask Questions Before Sharing Your Kid’s Social Security Number

Have you thought about child identity theft as you are getting your kids ready for the new school year? Parents have a lot they need to consider, and guarding their child’s identity may not be the first thing that comes to mind.

Parents should be prepared to do a little homework when the school year starts. Here are a few facts to take into consideration as you are filling out forms for the new school year.

Schools Ask For SSN

Schools nationwide ask for millions of students’ Social Security numbers (SSNs) every year when they enroll in K-12 programs, according to a July 2010 audit from the Office of the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration (SSA).

The SSA audit reports that at least 26 states collect SSNs from their students, athough no laws require it. In fact, only seven states have laws in place asking for a child’s SSN in school’s documentation.

Why Sharing Isn’t Always Best

Of the states that collect a child’s SSN, 80 percent warehouse them without proper safeguards in place to protect theses SSNs from identity theft.  In 2009 alone, 19,000 incidents of child identity theft were reported as figures from the SSA show.

One such incident occurred in December 2009, when a North Carolina school system accidentally sent out about 5,000 postcards with students' SSNs printed on the front. This left those children vulnerable to mail fraud, which is a leading tactic used in identity theft. All a thief would need is a child’s SSN to take advantage of their blank credit score.

Don’t Be Shy, Ask Why

If the school asks for a child’s SSN, parents should find out how it is going to be used, and what protections are in place to guard it. It may not be essential for the school to use SSNs to document your child.

Make sure your child’s SSN is locked away and always monitor for red flags of child ID theft. The Federal Trade Commission recommends that parents check their child’s credit report as soon as they turn 16. It's usually easier to resolve problems that are caught quickly.