Last week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) engaged in several efforts to build public awareness regarding the risks to children of identity theft.  Schools and other institutions that handle data from children may consider reviewing the FTC’s outreach material, as it can offer helpful insight on FTC views.  Additionally, the FTC’s suggestion that it has special solicitude for “especially vulnerable consumers such as children” may signal that heightened FTC interest in this area will continue.

First, Deanya Kueckelhan, Director of the Southwest Regional Office of the FTC, testified regarding identity theft from children at a field hearing of the Subcommittee on Social Security of the House Committee on Ways and Means held in Plano, Texas.  Kueckelhan stated in prepared testimony that “[p]rotecting consumers [and] especially vulnerable consumers such as children against identity theft and its consequences is a critical component of the Commission’s consumer protection mission.”  The testimony describes FTC enforcement activity in the identity theft area and notes several FTC outreach activities regarding children and data protection, including a forthcoming guide for young adults who have been victims of identity theft.

Second, as part of its outreach efforts, the FTC issued a consumer alert describing steps parents can take to protect their children’s personal information at school.  It suggests that parents should become aware of Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) rights and find out how personal information about their children will be used and shared before revealing it.  The alert notes that identity theft from children, in particular, can go undetected for long periods of time because it will be years before children apply for a job or a loan.