Protecting Our Kids from Online Identity Theft
With the Internet being so easily accessible today, the dangers of identity theft are increasing at an alarming rate. Although we think about our own security measures online, we often forget that our children are the bigger threats. In fact, they’re 51 times more likely to become the victim of identity fraud than adults are. Armed with your child’s private information, thieves can do anything from open bank accounts, get credit cards, apply for benefits or take out loans – in fact, the list is endless. And, as a child’s identity can be left unchecked until they turn 18, they are the more desirable victim.
Unlike the UK, which releases a National Insurance number to people from their 16th birthday, the United States issues a social security number to children as soon as they are born. This number, along with basic information such as the child’s name and address, all of which is used to apply to schools, for example, is often all thieves need to begin their fraud. Then, as a child gets older, their online presence makes them even more detectable.
While undertaking a study into child identity theft, Richard Power, a fellow at the Carnegie Mellon University CyLab in Pittsburgh, discovered that children between the ages of 8 to 18 spend an average of 10 hours a day, on the Internet. They are unaware of the risks involved with the information they are making public. Norton’s Online Family Report states that 41% of children add ‘friends’ they don’t know on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Another 63% of children respond to online scams and 77% download viruses accidentally onto their computers.
So, how can you protect your child’s identity?
- Don’t save information onto your Internet browser
Often there is the option to save passwords and bank information etc. so that you don’t have to re-enter the data later. Ensure that your children are not tempted to do this as it can easily be acquired by hackers if there is a system breach.
- Don’t share personal information so easily
Do you need to give your child’s social security number to every company that requests it? Schools have protection in place to prevent outside access to their students’ information, even they don’t require it. But triple-check everything else before you release these types of details.
- Teach your children the dangers of social media
Make sure your children don’t talk to or accept friend requests from strangers. As a parent, you should check the privacy settings on their devices every few weeks and, most importantly, encourage your kids to create strong passwords which they do not share with anyone.
- Read the small print
Forms often have an opt-out section – always read the small print in any Terms and Conditions and choose to opt-out of places you’re not comfortable with or don’t trust so that your child’s information is not shared across multiple organizations and platforms.