In youth sports, don’t play games with personal information

09/21/2012 3:57 PM

05/16/2014 7:46 PM

Anyone who has ever registered kids for a youth sports team knows you’re typically required to turn over a birth certificate and share a certain amount of other personal information with the league, such as photos, addresses, phone numbers and even immunization records.

That’s what makes Bob Montgomery uncomfortable.

Montgomery has coached youth soccer in the Kansas City area for 10 years, and he’s seen enough to believe that youth leagues often handle players’ personal information in such a lackadaisical manner that it creates the potential for identity theft.

It’s not that league officials and team managers don’t care, he said. Rather, they may not realize the implications of having so much paperwork with so much personal information.

“You can have 2,500 to 2,700 kids in a soccer program and 12 to 14 teams per age group. That’s a lot of birth certificates,” Montgomery said.

Whether it’s soccer clubs or other youth sports, there needs to be better and more secure measures in place for keeping and then destroying kids’ information, he said.

Montgomery read my recent column about how identity thieves are more frequently stealing children’s Social Security numbers, birth certificates, photographs and other information to obtain credit cards, apply for loans and land jobs.

I’m not trying to panic parents or imply that volunteers or community officials who run these youth activities shouldn’t be trusted.

But I firmly believe parents should try to control how much of their kids’ personal information is floating around and be aware of how the records are stored.

It’s difficult to pinpoint whether youth sports organizations or any other extracurricular activities for your kids are fresh ground for identity thieves. According to the San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center, numerous studies show that less than half of identity theft victims have any idea where their identity was compromised.

Still, the organization sees lots of identity theft cases “where it is very likely that the victim created a prime condition to be victimized,” said Rex Davis, director of operations at the nonprofit center.

That’s why he preaches parental prevention and awareness, even if the team manager is your neighbor.

“We all know that our personal information is out there in the world in numerous places that we have no control over,” Davis said. “But that does not mean that we shouldn’t be very careful with the part of the puzzle that clearly is our responsibility.”

Here are tips for parents from Nikki Junker, social media manager and victim adviser at the Identity Theft Resource Center:

• If the sports organization asks for a child’s Social Security number, ask why it need it and determine if the reason is legitimate.

• Parents should provide the least amount of information about their child on forms or other paperwork. Ask the administrator or the coach what information is absolutely essential and which is optional.

• “Show the original copy, but don’t turn it over,” Junker said of paperwork.

• If the information is being stored in a computer, find out what security features are in place.

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