The New York State Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) is advising parents and guardians to protect their children’s personal information during the back to school period. With the new school year about to start and the activities such as school groups, teams and clubs, the DCP is calling on consumers to learn more about what they can do to help stem the tide against identity theft and prevent fraud victimization.
“The back to school season is the time of the year when adults are frequently asked to share their child’s personal information for school registration, sports sign-up and other activities,” said Rossana Rosado, New York Secretary of State. “The Division of Consumer Protection is reminding parents and guardians to be on alert when offering personal information that can expose the child to fraud and identity theft while filing forms that could fall in the wrong hands."
Identity theft can happen to anyone, even children. Child identity theft occurs when a minor’s personal information is used to create a false identity, which usually includes the commission of fraud. The false identity is then used to obtain credit cards, open new utility accounts or make large purchases, such as a car or home, in the name of the child victim.
Children’s identities are especially attractive to thieves because the theft of the child’s identity often remains undetected for years. For many child victims, the realization that their identities have been stolen does not occur until the first time they attempt to open a bank account, apply for a job, seek credit or rent an apartment.
Children are 35 times more likely to become victims of identity theft. Identity thieves often target kids because they have pristine credit profiles and dormant social security numbers. Before providing sensitive data to schools, daycare centers, sports programs, activity clubs, doctors’ offices and libraries, ask how the information will be used, stored, disposed and accessed.
New York State law affords parents and guardians of children under the age of 16 the opportunity to place a security freeze on their protected consumer record. The placement of a freeze prevents the credit reporting agency from releasing the protected consumer’s “consumer report, any information derived from the protected consumer's consumer report, or any record created for the protected consumer” to third parties. The freeze also prevents anyone from opening a credit account in the child’s name. A parent or guardian interested in placing a freeze on their protected consumer’s record must contact each consumer reporting agency to effectuate a “protected consumer” freeze with that credit reporting agency. Each consumer reporting agency has a different criterion to effectuate a “protected consumer” freeze.
Here are some tips to protect your school-age children:
- Only label books, backpacks, and lunches with your child’s name and any other information on the inside.
- Be careful in providing identifying information to after-school activities and sports clubs upon registration. If asked for a Social Security number, inquire as to why they need this and insist on using another identifier.
- Check with your child’s school for releases to use pictures of a student’s likeness in their material.
- Inquire about elementary and secondary in-school collection of a student’s personal information.
- Make time to regularly check your child’s online social networks and talk to your child about using the internet safely.
- Carefully evaluate any offers at a store or online requiring a child’s name, date of birth or other identifying information for registration.
- Read the privacy policies that accompany any solicitations either by mail or online.
- Register your child’s cell phone with the National Do Not Call Registry so he/she is not solicited by savvy telemarketers who may encourage them to give out their personal information.
For additional information about the Division of Consumer Protection or to file a consumer complaint, please contact our Consumer Helpline at 1-800-697-1220, Monday-Friday, 8:30AM – 4:30PM or visit www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection. The Division can also be reached via Twitter at @NYSConsumer or Facebook at www.facebook.com/nysconsumer.