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Protect Your Kids: Back to School Identity Protection

Useful tips on ways to protect your kids’ identities as they head back to school.

It’s time to get ready to head back to school, which means parents and their children are busy shopping, filling out the required school forms, getting yearly physicals, and labeling all of their supplies.  This is an exciting time for students, but it’s also a good time to sit down and refresh yourself and your family on identity protection basics.

Back To School Shopping

There is a lot of shopping to do before school starts, whether your kids are in preschool or headed to college.  This means an increase in the exchange of financial information, which also means you’ll need to keep tabs on your bank statements, credit statements, and your credit cards.  Why? Because identity theft is still one of the top crimes in the U.S., and a lot of it stems from data breaches.

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, one way to mitigate identity theft is to plan out your purchases.  While this information was issued for the busy holiday shopping season, it’s good practice for any season when there is high-volume retail sales.  Prior to school shopping, make a list of required items and where you plan to purchase them.  Instead of using your debit card, try using a prepaid card so your actual credit cards aren’t compromised.  This is also good for sticking to a budget, as you will not be able to overspend.

Back To School Forms

In addition to culling through the endless back to school shopping lists, parents must take the time to fill out form after form for a myriad of reasons: school registration, sports sign-ups, daycare enrollment, and college dorm move-ins.

Are you exposing your child to fraud when you fill out these forms? In a way, yes! Believe it or not, kids are susceptible to identity theft because they have tip-top credit profiles and social security numbers that are considered dormant.  If you’re using a social security number, find out the reasons a SSN is required and see if you can avoid giving it.  If you do have to provide it, ask how it will be stored and shared.  Of course, always ask how it will be discarded. (Hint: shredding is the only acceptable and most compliant form of destruction!)

Medical Records

It is becoming more common for schools to provide students with more health services. Given that schools may have sensitive health information — or request that information from students and parents — which laws cover health record privacy for school records?

There is FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which applies to most school health records, most of the time.

There is also HIPAA, the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, which applies to some school health records, some of the time.

If you are a student or a parent, and you want to know which privacy rule applies, you should ask or look for a copy of the privacy policy or notice of information practices.  It matters at times because privacy protections differ under the HIPAA and FERPA.

Parents have enough to worry about when sending their young ones off to school, but with a few preventative measures, identity protection is possible.  Wishing all the students and their families a safe, successful, and healthy 2017-2018 school year!

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