By Becky Frost, Experian's ProtectMyID
It’s official! We’re knee deep in the holiday season and for many families that means traveling the friendly skies and hitting the road to celebrate this special time of year with family and friends. It can be tough traveling with kids, but the days of “Are we there yet?” and “How much longer?” are in the rear view mirror thanks to technology. All the entertainment and distractions parents could hope for are wrapped in today’s smartphones, tablets and laptops. But like with so many things in life, there can be a downside, and with mobile technology, it comes in the form of identity theft.
Identity theft is a serious crime that is on the rise and can affect anyone, including children. Not only are kids naive to the behaviors that open them up to fraud, they also have little to no credit history, making them prime targets for identity thieves. This makes it all the more important to be mindful of the dangers and protect yourself and your children from identity theft while on the go this holiday season. Here are some tips to help keep your kids safe:
1. Protect their SSN. Your child’s Social Security number shouldn’t be on anything they carry while traveling. If any of their identification cards from a school or library has their SSN as their member number, ask the organization for a randomly selected number and a new card. Be sure to shred the old one.
2. Be mobile. Be careful. Shoulder surfers can prey on the unassuming. Encourage your kids to be observant of their surroundings when using a mobile device in public.
3. Say “No” to public Wi-Fi. Public Wi-Fi hotspots are a breeding ground for identity thieves waiting to hack into others’ information found on their mobile devices. Create a safe network for your child by using a portable router to create a Wi-Fi hotspot for your child’s phone, tablet and laptop. You’ll need a local SIM data card, which is available at most electronic stores, or even airport kiosks.
4. Keep hackers away. According to recent statistics, more than two-thirds of people use a free or unsecured Wi-Fi network, giving hackers free access to the networks. If your child must use a public network, make sure that they are being very cautious and avoid visiting sites that contain private information, like social media pages and bank accounts.
5. Don't over share details. Kids are notorious for posting details of where and when they'll be at any given time. This can create the risk of getting unwanted attention from potential predators or strangers. Your child may want to share their fun holiday plans with friends and family this season, but the rest of the world doesn't need to find out their every step from sites like Facebook or Twitter. Encourage them to adjust their privacy settings so they aren't revealing too much personal information and locations.
6. Monitor social channels. Pay attention to your child's social media pages while they are on vacation. If you see a potentially damaging or risqué photo or status update, address the issue right away. Embarrassing or inappropriate postings or photos can cost them a job or affect their college application process.
7. Is it the real deal? Make sure that the websites your child is visiting are legitimate. This is especially important to consider during the holiday shopping season. Cyberspace is riddled with URL spoof sites that are created to steal your information. Before your child hits the road, play it safe by bookmarking their favorite sites.
Becky Frost is senior manager of consumer education for Experian’s ProtectMyID.