Schools are putting children at risk of identity fraud by obtaining their Social Security numbers when it is not required by law and often unnecessary, the Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General has concluded.
Some school systems in at least 26 states collect the nine-digit identifiers when students from kindergarten through high school register for classes, even though the respective state does not require it as a matter of law, according to a report released last week. […]
“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 the growing number of identity theft victims who are under the age of 19. “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.”
Additionally, the report cited an October 2009 study by the Fordham Law School Center on Law and Information Policy that showed a growing trend among state departments of education to establish databases that track students’ progress over time.
The Fordham study found that privacy protections for the databases were generally lacking in the majority of states. It said 16 states warehoused children’s Social Security numbers and more than 40 states “apparently failed to have data retention policies and were likely to hold student information indefinitely,” according to the inspector general’s report.