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When Should I Give Out My Child’s Social Security Number?

Heading back to school brings a flurry of registrations, checkups and signups. As you fill out paperwork, you might be asked to include your child’s Social Security number (SSN) as an identifier for everything from Little League to the doctor’s office.

With incidents of child identity theft on the rise — nearly 400,000 kids get their identities stolen each year, according to the Federal Trade Commission —  it’s critical to know when (and when not) to give out your child’s SSN.

When You Need It

According to the Social Security Administration, you will need your child’s SSN in the following instances:

  • To claim your child as a dependent on your income tax return
  • To open a bank account or buy a savings bond for your child
  • To obtain medical coverage for your child
  • To apply for government services for your child
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Other Situations

From school enrollment to summer camp time, below are a few situations you may be asked for your child’s SSN and what you need to know.

Starting a new school year: Your local schools may ask for your child’s SSN, but it is not required for enrollment, according to the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education. And remember, when it comes to protecting the privacy of student records, the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) gives you the right to opt out of sharing contact or other directory information with third parties.

Signing up for extracurriculars: When signing up for programs such as Little League, dance or music class, confirm whether your child’s SSN is necessary. If it’s not, don’t provide it. Depending on how it will be used, alternate forms of ID, such as a child’s U.S. Passport or birth certificate, may suffice. Also, be sure to take note of the program’s privacy policies to find out if and how your child’s information will be used and shared.

Heading to the doctor’s office: Many healthcare providers use SSNs as unique identifiers for their patients; however, Identity Theft 911 advises that giving them your — or your child’s — number is not necessary. If you opt not to share your child’s SSN, ask if you can instead provide the last four digits of their SSN or other identifying information, such as your driver’s license, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Spending time at summer camp: Attending summer camp may require a hefty amount of paperwork, but including your child’s SSN likely won’t be on the list. If it is, inquire if it is necessary and how it will be stored. You might be able to write off some of the camp expenses as dependent care services on your income taxes, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), in which case you will have to provide your and your child’s SSN to the IRS.

Bottom line: If you’re unsure as to why an organization may be requesting your child’s SSN, the FTC recommends that you ask how the information is collected, used, stored and thrown away. There are other ways to identify you or your child, according to the FTC, including a birth certificate or driver’s license — see if alternate forms of ID will suffice.