As a teacher and a parent there are many things I would like to prepare my children for as they enter the real world. Have you had THE TALK? No, I’m not talking about the birds and the bees. I’m thinking of ways to prepare my children to protect themselves from strangers and identity theft. This is one issue that is really important to talk to our kids about. For adults, lost information can mean identity theft and financial ruin. For children, stolen information can mean a threat to their safety.
How to talk to your kids about identity theft and alert them to the dangers?
Here are some child identity theft tips and how to tackle this discussion with different age groups:
Preschoolers (3-5 years old):
- You need to keep your chat simple with preschoolers, as they do not understand abstract time phrases like “A stranger may try to use your identity to apply for a job”.
- Tell them that “strangers may be friendly but they are not always your friend.” Don’t share your full name, date of birth and address with people surrounding you, such as teachers in the daycare or even friends. It is considered private information. If those people want to know something, tell them to ask mommy and daddy.
- Inform them that while this information may be needed to go to school or buy things from a store, it is still private information that should not be shared with others.
Expect to have the talk many times in the next few years. Young children may take longer to absorb the concept of stranger danger.
School-Agers (6-10 years old):
Repeat the same talk! The identity theft talk can be amped up a bit by explaining that “Some strangers are friendly but may be sneaky and try to get your name and address to steal our stuff.” I had this talk with a couple kindergarteners and one of them said; “Whoa, I don’t want anyone to come and steal my Xbox!”
- At this age, kids play online. Set clear boundaries for online activities in terms of time limits and where they can visit. Enable Parental control options, and talk to you kids about why you are setting the limits. You can tell them that there are certain sites that can use their personal information: name, date of birth and address to create a bank account, to apply for mortgage. These scammers will not pay for these loans. Someone will have to pay for it, and it will most likely be you.
- Now is an appropriate time to tell them that their name is associated with a number (SSN). This number is important for future use, such as buying a house or getting a job. This number is kept secret by mommy and daddy to protect them. If this number is used by another person in their name, it is called Identity theft. Don’t share this number with them yet though, as they’re still too young to need it.
- At this age, they are technically not allowed to have a social media account, but some of them do anyway. If they do, you need to alert them to the danger of friending and chatting with people that they don’t know in real life. These people may want to steal their SSN or address to create another identity. Tell them to ask for permission to friend a person or to chat online. If they feel uncomfortable when they are online to come and see you.
- Some elementary school kids may walk to the school with other friends. Alert them to the danger of sharing the following information with other friends and people at schoo: full address, full name of their mother, and other personally identifying information.
Tweens & Teens ( 11+ years old):
Tweens and Teens understand stranger danger, but often think “It can’t happen to me.”
You can tell them that their name is a unique identity. This identity is used to apply for a job, for a student loan, a mortgage. Some people want to steal this identity and take advantage of it. They will contract a loan in your name. You will be entitled to pay it. Don’t scare them too much but alert them to the importance of their name, address, personal information (name of their mother) and personal pictures.
How to alert your tweens about identity theft
- Some tweens (12+) may stay home alone for few hours. Tell them not to answer the phone if they do not recognize the number. Some scammers may call during the day to ask for personal information.
- Tell them not to answer the door bell for the same reasons.
- If they go online, they need to make sure not to chat with people they do not know on social sites. Refrain from sharing photos and personal information with people they do not know because it can be used to create another identity.
How to alert your teens about identity theft
Be honest about your concerns for their safety and well-being. And expect to have “the talk” more the once.
- Many teens have their own email accounts. Be wary of phishing schemes: when someone tries to get personal information or money from you by posing as a legitimate company or service provider. I recently received an email asking me to reply with my email address, email password, full name, and mailing address. It looked official and seemed to be from my provider, a well-known, global online presence. Alarm bells rang, because I knew my email provider would not ask me for that information, and I had NOT tried to reset any passwords. I replied to the email and said “Are you crazy? I’m not giving you my password!” I never heard from them again.
- Never give out your cell phone numbers either. If a SPAMMER gets hold of it, you will be in big trouble.
- Don’t share too much information on social sites: address, phone number, full name. If a mean person gets hold of it, he can create a new identity.
Discussing with your children about identity theft and its dangers can prevent a lot of trouble. Identity Guard® can offer peace of mind and helpful tools to prevent identity theft. For more than a decade, Identity Guard® has been helping to protect people from the threat of identity theft with solid technological solutions that quickly alert you to certain kinds of activity involving your personal information. They provide child’s ID protection services with kID Sure℠. Why wait, Get Identity Guard, and all the details you need to know about identity theft and how to help yourself stay safe from it.
I would love to hear your tips and advice on talking to family members about stranger danger and online safety.