Magazine article Information Management

Schools Putting Kids' SSNs at Risk

Magazine article Information Management

Schools Putting Kids' SSNs at Risk

Article excerpt

Schools in at least 26 states are putting children at risk of identity theft by collecting their Social Security numbers (SSNs), even when it is not required by law to do so, a report from the Social Security Administration's Office of Inspector General has found.

Only seven states require schools to collect SSNs as the primary means of tracking and identifying students, though other methods would be as efficient, investigators concluded.

"We believe such practices increase the risk of SSN misuse and unnecessarily subject students to the possibility of identity theft," investigators said in the report, which noted an increasing trend in the number of identity" theft victims who are under the age of 19. Children are an ideal target for identity thieves because they have clean credit histories and may not notice discrepancies in their records for many years.

According to The Washington Times, in one example cited by investigators, an elementary school held a poster contest in which students were told to use their SSNs on the entry form attached to their poster.

The report also cited an October 2009 study by the Fordham Law School Center on Law and Information Policy that revealed an apparent trend among state departments of education to establish long-term tracking databases that monitor students' progress over time. The study found that the databases were not properly protected in the majority of states, in 16 of them, children's SSNs were warehoused, and 40 states lacked data retention policies and held student information indefinitely, the report found. …

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