Ask about privacy protection
"You just need to be an advocate for your child," says Opperman, adding that whenever your child's Social Security number is requested, you should ask why it's needed and how it will be used.
Ask companies to provide details about how they store, protect and dispose of private information. "The answer can be very telling because there are a lot of businesses, and particularly smaller businesses, that just don't put enough effort and funding into securing their data," says Weisman.
So when you ask, listen to their response. Dead air is a red flag; you don't want to do business with them. An immediate response detailing the steps they've taken to protect privacy -- encrypted data, privacy training for employees, limits to information access -- is a good sign. This is an important step to take, says Weisman, adding that small businesses are the "low-hanging fruit" that hackers are targeting.
"You're only as safe as the weakest place that holds it," says Weisman.