A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

BBB Trends: School dazed? Watch for identity theft; share information only on need-to-know basis

By Sandra Guile
Better Business Bureau

In just a few short weeks, school bells will ring announcing the start of another school year. For many parents, that means forms, forms, and more forms -— applications for scholarships, sports teams, scouts and the list goes on. 

Need-To-Know Basis

As you get started, consider how much of your child’s information you’re sharing and how to protect it. You have some protection under the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act, which requires schools to notify parents and guardians about their school directory policy. It also allows parents to opt-out of the release of directory information to third parties. 

Safeguard your children’s Social Security numbers by not carrying their cards with you and asking the school if they really need them for their records. If the school insists, ask why they need them, and how they will protect them.

After the year begins, you may no longer need certain forms; shred them using a cross-cut shredder.

If you have college students, consider giving them shredders of their own to destroy pre-approved credit card offers or other pieces of mail that could be used for identity theft.

Be Social, but Be Careful

If your children have cell phones, other mobile devices or regular access to social media sites, have a heart-to-heart talk about what they should and shouldn’t share. Full names, addresses, and birth dates can be vulnerability points if exposed to social media. Become familiar with GPS services on mobile devices and consider monitoring your child’s online activity to stay alert to any cyberbullying.

To take additional precautions in protecting your child’s information, some states will allow you to freeze an individual credit record. Credit reporting agencies will create and freeze a minor’s credit record upon the request of a parent or minor, in order to prevent a thief from opening any lines of credit or accounts in the child’s name. The only way it can be opened is if the parent or guardian requests it, or the child turns 16. Check with your state attorney general’s office for more information.

Report It

Have a good start to the new school year with a little peace of mind. If your child’s information is used for identity theft, report it immediately to law enforcement and visit identitytheft.gov for a complete plan on how to recover it. Then report it to BBB’s ScamTracker.

Sandra Guile is the Public Relations Specialist for BBB. She promotes BBB’s message of marketplace ethics through public speaking engagements, presentations, media relations, press releases, web content, and other written materials. Your BBB is located at 1 East 4th Street Suite 600 Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 – to reach the office, call (513) 421-3015.

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