Things you can do to help make your teenage son/daughter aware of the dangers of identity theft
It's truly great that your teenager is so au-fait with technology; can show you how to use Facebook, Youtube or how to download apps for your new smartphone. However it’s all too easy to assume that you have nothing to teach your technological know-it-all. Because when it comes to teens and technology, they may know how to access everything, but they don’t necessarily know when to be wary about giving out too much information about themselves or, worse still, you.
Here's what the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange says about this potential problem: “kids under the age of 18 are 51 times more likely to become victims of identity theft than their parents.” Here are some guidelines to follow which will hopefully help avoid your teenager doesn't become a victim.
Why are teens a higher risk? - Teenagers are highly susceptible to identity theft for a variety of reasons. The first is purely practical from the thieves' perspective: minors’ identities are typically more valuable because they have clean credit histories and are not likely to regularly check their own credit report. Add to that the fact that there's currently no system in place to determine the birth date associated with any particular NI number, and it’s pretty clear that a teen’s identity can be a long lasting gold mine for an identity thief. In addition to this teenagers tend to have a much more casual attitude about the value of personal information and tech security than adults. After all, since teens tend to spend a great deal of time online, it doesn’t seem to them like anything dangerous could happen to them there. They are much more likely to fall for a scam because it doesn’t occur to them that they need to worry.
Preventing identity theft - Make sure you've had “A Talk” with your teens about online security. And just like the other uncomfortable parenting talks, it pays to have this conversation sooner rather than later. It may seem like common sense that you shouldn’t give out your NI number online, even to friends, but for naďve teens desperate to get into social networking, they may not realise just how vital keeping that information private is.
In addition, it's important to stress that providing payment and/or identifying information should only be done when using secure or trusted web sites. Make a list of trusted sites. Mke sure they know to look for either the padlock icon or that the connection begins with the letters https (rather than http) to show that it is a secure site.
Beware of games, quizzes, and surveys - The number one method hackers use to steal information is to get victims themselves to give it to them. This method of identity theft is known as phishing, and it can include anything from creating fake sites that look like real ones to offering games to play. Teens are much more likely to fall for phishing scams disguised as fun surveys or games than their parents. These quizzes can ask for information like mother’s maiden name or pet name in an attempt to learn the information necessary to steal their passwords and identity. Your teen may think she’s just learning about her dating personality, when in reality he/she’s giving important information over to thieves.
Be Vigilant - Since identity thieves are looking for a target who will not notice the theft for some time, one of the best ways to combat teen identity theft is to keep a careful eye on any account balances in the teen’s name. The earlier an identity theft is detected, the easier it is to deal with.
The Bottom Line - Identity theft is a serious problem, and prevention is always much easier than having to find a cure. It’s up to us parents to make sure our teens understand the consequences of unsafe or careless use of the internet.