Too many schools are gathering the Social Security information of their students, even though the data is not required by law, a new report reveals.
The practice of unnecessary personal data collection among schools was brought up by the Social Security Administration Office Inspector General recently, as the organization expressed its concerns over the increased risk of identity theft, the Washington Times reports. Citing information from a recent study, the Times noted that some schools in no less than 26 states collect Social Security numbers on students from kindergarten through high school - despite no state law requiring them to do so.
Collecting personal data that is not required by law only increases the risk of exposing a student's sensitive information in the event of a breach of theft. In one example, the newspaper cited a poster contest an elementary school, in which the teachers required students to write their Social Security numbers on their entry forms and paste them to the back of their poster board.
The newspaper quotes investigators as saying they "believe such practices increase the risk of SSN misuse and unnecessarily subject students to the possibility of identity theft. Identity thieves often target children because they have clean credit histories, and their records may be used for years before they realize their identity has been used for criminal activities."
According to Identity Theft 911 founder and chairman Adam Levin, nearly 4 percent of all identity theft cases involve stealing the information of children - leaving more than 400,000 with a damaged credit history before they reach the age of 18, the Free Press reports.
Parents can protect their children from identity theft and detect suspicious activity by obtaining a copy of their child's credit report along with theirs to make sure no accounts or loans appear under their name. Parents should also ask the school how and where their kid's information will be stored if they are asked to provide a copy of the child's birth certificate or Social Security information.
When their child applies for a credit card or their first job, parents may also consider having a talk with them about identity theft, how it works, and how they can protect themselves from becoming a victim.