Your kids may not be able to do much with their social security numbers, but cyber criminals can! Identity thieves can apply for credit cards, housing, government benefits, and more if they can get their hands on a child’s information.
Each year, about 1.3 million kids have their identity stolen. It’s easy for these crimes to go unnoticed too until a child turns 16 or 18. So what can you do, as a parent, to protect your children and teach them to be cyber aware?
Prevention is the best protection. Follow these steps to safeguard your child and his or her information.
How can I protect my children from Identity Theft?
Keep Documents SafeKeep all your child’s important and identifying documents together in a safe place – like a safe or safety deposit box! Medical records, birth certificates, social security cards, etc. should all be together where only you can access it. Don’t keep documents or cards in your wallet or purse, and don’t have copies floating around!
Whenever you need to dispose of a copy or document, make sure to shred it. Don’t give anyone the opportunity to get their hands on your child’s ID!
Look Out for Red FlagsCarefully monitor all mail addressed to your child. A pre-approved credit card may not be something to worry about, but bills, collection notices, summons, traffic tickets are. Especially if your kid can’t drive!
Anything unusual charges under your child’s name should prompt you to run a credit check for their name. If something comes up, that’s when you know they may be in trouble. It’s a good idea to regularly run a credit check with your child’s name to see if there are any unpaid balances or loan applications. If ANYTHING shows up there, it’s time to reach out to IdentityTheft.gov This site run by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), will guide you through your rights, your child’s rights, and the steps to take.
Watch for Risky SituationsIdentity theft happens when our information is at its most vulnerable. If certain events happen to you or your family like a break-in, dire financial status, or perhaps stressful, costly medical issues, it’s more likely an identity could be stolen by an opportunist. No matter how distracting a situation might be, always be thinking about your child’s (and your own!) personal information and who may have access to it.
How can I teach my children to protect themselves?
Teach Them About Fake Emails and MessagesIf you’re new to the internet, it’s going to be harder for you to tell the real from the fake. Kids will have to learn how to spot fake links with your help. You will want your kids to be tech-savvy as well as street savvy, to help keep themselves safe! Our guide on phishing will give you pointers to pass onto your children. They’ll need to know what to watch for in their email, social media, and phone inboxes.
An easy saying for your child to remember is: Think before you click!
Setting Up Social AccountsEventually, your kid is going to have access to the internet. They’ll want to connect with their friends over social media, games, and email – all which require a username and a password, at least. So make sure you have taught your child the importance of making a long and strong password that they keep to themselves. They will also need smart usernames that don’t give away too much about themselves!
Teach your children about how to share. What’s appropriate and what’s not? What information needs to be kept private? We have tons of blogs that will help you figure out how to educate your children on internet privacy.
Turn on Privacy SettingsCheck your children’s profiles to be sure they are as secure as they can be. Can you add a two-step authentication? Will you be notified if someone logs in from an unknown location? Who can see what is posted on the profile? Make sure your child knows about the security measures and why they are important.
Protecting your child includes protecting their personal information. Preventative measures are important to take so that social engineers and cyber criminals don’t have access to your child’s PII like a social security number, national ID, school ID, hospital records, etc. But children also need to know how to take these preventative measures themselves and you can teach them! Learning early not to overshare, to carefully protect their identities, and to always know with whom they are talking online, is essential. It needs to be as natural as looking both ways before crossing a street, clicking a seat belt snugly in a vehicle, and locking doors!
And one of the simplest things you can do to help your child learn? Lead by example! Be responsible with your personal information and your kids are much more likely to follow suit.
Have your own family security awareness policy at home that sets some basic rules for safe use of any connected electronic devices and the handling of all PII (personally identifiable information).