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Many school forms require personal and sensitive information. Here are some tips for keeping your child’s personal information safe — from pre-school through college.

  • Safeguard your child’s Social Security number (SSN). Don’t carry your child’s Social Security card with you, and don’t share it unless you know and trust the other party. Ask why it’s necessary and how it will be protected. Ask if you can use a different identifier, or use only the last four digits.
  • Know your rights under FERPA. The Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects the privacy of student records. FERPA requires schools to notify parents and guardians about their school directory policy. It also gives you the right to opt out of sharing contact or other directory information with third parties, including other families.
  • Limit what kids share online. Teach kids not to post their name, address or full date of birth on social media. For more tips, check out the FTC publication, Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids About Being Online. It offers practical tips and ideas for getting the conversation started about social networking, privacy, mobile devices, computer security, and dealing with cyberbullying.
  • Use strong passwords on smartphones, tablets or laptops. Teach the importance of changing passwords – and not sharing them. This is especially important for college students in a dorm or other shared living space.
  • Use a shredder. Shred all documents with your child’s personal information before throwing them away.
  • Check whether your child has a credit report close to the child’s 16th birthday. If there is one — and it has errors due to fraud or misuse — you’ll have time to correct it before your child applies for a job, seeks a loan for tuition or a car, or needs to rent an apartment. Contact Equifax at 1-800-525-6285; Experian at 1-888-397-3742; and TransUnion at childidtheft@transunion.com.

If someone misuses your child’s information, go to IdentityTheft.gov to find out what steps to take.

Are you wondering what to keep and what to shred? We looked at experts’ advice and compiled this summary of how long they recommend keeping certain documents.

12 Comments


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username01
August 20, 2018
So sad that it's come to this. I guess it's just one of the side effects of living in the computer/instant-communications age. People are social animals and like to share personal information, they just don't want that information to be used for nefarious purposes. Maybe they will yet find a way to have it both ways.
Ms. Gray
August 20, 2018
not immediately for sale receipts, because of returns.
Mick
August 20, 2018
I continue to get a call once a week from Card Service (or some version of that) and people purporting to be Microsoft Support (or some version of that) telling me that they are detected a failure on my computer. There have to be hundreds, perhaps thousands, of employees of the FTC getting the same calls. Why can you not stop this crap?????
Dancer
August 20, 2018
Thank you for this information.
Doug
August 21, 2018
Another point to consider is the VERY personal and sensitive information that parents (and sometimes school employees) will put into email communication to each other. Information such as neuropsych testing, medications, more private/serious health issues, etc. Email is not as private as people think and the email hosting services have been found to crawl people's data in an effort to monetize the information. Remember, if you don't pay for the service then your are the product in some way. Don't put very sensitive information into emails!
Carmen pringle 2016
August 21, 2018
Thanks
Phil A.
August 21, 2018
Why keep tax returns forever? IRS doesn't look back more than 7 years, and then only if there's a problem with your current return. Otherwise, the look back is 3 years.
Anne EA
August 23, 2018

In reply to by Phil A.

1) Social Security uses your tax return & W-2 to fix holes in your earnings records... 2) SSA uses your "High" 35 years to determine how much your qualify for. (Yes you will get some even after SSA is "broke", maybe only 70-75% but you can get some money) 3) If the IRS determines your actions are "Fraud" they can go back 8-10 years...or more. And it up to you to prove them wrong.
Reference Librarian
August 21, 2018
Ms. Gray is correct, you should not shred sales receipts (cash or credit) immediately, you should save them for possible returns and/or warranty service (if applicable). Further, you should save all credit card receipts until you have checked them against your next credit card bill. Likewise, you should not shred ATM receipts until you have verified them against your next bank statement.
LCW
August 22, 2018
I keep all utility bills, cancelled checks, and receipts for 1 year before shredding. Cancelled checks have helped me prove I paid something months later. Utility bills have helped me prove if something changed or not over the past several months, such as all of a sudden a fee shows up that they try to say you've been paying for months...um, not!
inesc
August 27, 2018
Is this information available in Spanish? If so, where can we go to find it? Thank you!
FTC Staff
August 27, 2018

In reply to by inesc

We don't have the blog post in Spanish, but we do have the key items: