3 Essential Tips to Protect Your Child from Identity Theft

Teen Identity Theft Tips

Teen photo courtesy rubbertoe on Flickr

Yep, the Internet and connected devices are rotting your child’s brain. It’s a proven fact.

But your child’s brain isn’t the only thing in jeopardy. Information stored on the Internet — birth dates, passwords, home addresses, credit card numbers, phone and Social Security numbers — can all be stolen and used for fun and profit by identity thieves.

Teens are easy targets because they spend so much time on social media and on their smartphones and aren’t super careful about what they share online.  Teens are also at risk because they don’t think too much about how today’s Snapchat might affect their future. So, here are a few tips you can share (via text, Instagram post – or maybe even face to face with your voice and their ears.

Tip #1: Never Forget Social Media is Forever

Look, teens are rebellious. They act out. They break rules, and they want acknowledgment of these actions. Many teens think it’s cool to post pictures on social media of themselves drinking at parties or driving too fast right after they’ve gotten their license. Talk to your kids about the dangers of social media. Anything they post online can be used against them somewhere down the line.

Teens looking at their phones and guzzling alcohol.

Image: flickr.com/mctrout

Ask them this…

What would a future employer feel good about hiring them after seeing a picture like this?

Chances are those types of photographs won’t land them better jobs or get them a raise. Any image that paints them in a bad light could hurt them down the road. Personal Information about their lives can also be used by hackers, so make sure they limit what they share on social media sites. All Pro Dad discusses these risks in further detail in the article 5 Dangers of Social Media for Teens.

Tip #2: Don’t Share Personal Info with Friends

A bank account is part of being an adult and teens getting their own bank account is a great way to teach personal finance and responsibility. But by no means should bank information be shared–even with friends. Debit card numbers and PINs are private. Teens trust their friends more than anyone else, but they have to learn that some stuff isn’t shared.

As a passenger in a car it can feel innocent to share a PIN with a friend while at a drive-thru ATM, but this begins a dangerous habit. At some point your child might place their trust in a person who decides to use this information against them. Teach your teens to protect their information. You never know how others will handle having the information. An empty bank account and a friend no longer isn’t worth the risk.

The same goes for Social Security numbers…

Money Crashers goes into greater detail about when it’s OK to give out a Social Security number.

Tip #3: Find Tools that Will Help

Give your teen the tools they need to protect themselves from identity theft, as well as precautions they can take. The first step: Educate yourself and them about identity theft scams. LifeLock monitors the trends of cyber and physical crime associated with identity theft. Once you know your way around this shadowy world, have a sit-down with your teen(s) and lay out some ground rules for how they can protect themselves.

Besides the tips above, there are also preventive measures everyone, but especially teens, should take while online. These include:

  • A top-of-the-line antivirus should always be installed, updated and enabled while on the web, even if gaming is your teen’s hobby. Many antiviruses have smart Gamer Modes that protect while they let you play and still filter out any malicious software a computer might pick up when on the web. They also block unstable websites, and even quarantines viruses that would otherwise compile passwords and usernames before sending them to the hacker who coded the virus.
  • A popular, and relatively new scheme is called phishing. Despite its cute name, phishing is when a hacker sets up a website that looks almost identical to a real website you visit often. The real website usually requires a username, password and sometimes even a credit or debit card number. Instead of a virus that records personal information, the site is a dummy that simply tricks the victim into providing their information straight to the hacker.
  • Many of these scams come in the form of emails that contain links. Never click on a link within an email if you don’t know the sender. If you or your child has it on good authority that the link is not a scam, still err on the side of caution and never enter your personal information within any fields associated with that link.

Author: Dave Nielsen

I started using computers in 1978 on the Apple II and was first online (using my “high-speed” 1200 baud modem) in 1989. I’ve managed web sites for several Fortune 500 companies and for internet start-ups. Working for one of those start-ups is what brought me into the world of credit. I was part of the the executive team that ran QSpace, the first company to offer credit reports over the internet.

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