FTC offers tips on protecting kids from identity theft

Advertisers, bullies and sexual predators aren’t the only ones trying to get their hands on your kid’s information online. Don’t forget about identity thieves.

Although many adults regularly check their own credit reports to keep tabs on activity, most parents don’t expect their children to have a credit file to have to check. And they wouldn’t, unless someone has snagged the necessary details and commandeered your kids’ persona.

When a child’s identity is stolen, it can be years before it’s discovered, according to the Federal Trade Commission. But parents can take steps to protect their kids’ personal information online and offline.

The FTC offers some guidelines on how to dissuade and handle identity fraud committed against your children.


Among the tips: Protect your kids’ personal information and don’t divulge details such as birth date and Social Security number.

When you go online, make sure the computer you’re using has updated antivirus software and firewall protection, the FTC suggests. Never send any personal information -- yours or your child’s -- through an unsecured wireless connection in a public place.

It’s probably best to avoid filling out or filing online forms with personal info at, say, the nearby Starbucks, McDonald’s or local library. You never know who is lurking virtually, ready to skim the details you send unprotected into the ether.

Whenever you log into a site with a password, be sure to log out when you’re done, the FTC suggests.


And if you do need to share personal information online about your children online, first check for five letters at the beginning of the URL: “https”, with the S standing for secure. A secure website also displays a lock icon in the address bar.

In the real world, we know to be careful about disposing of documents that have personal information and account numbers on them, for fear of someone digging through our trash to get the goods to do bad things.

The same care needs to be paid in disposing of what have become our digital wallets or virtual safes -- the computers, cellphones and mobile devices that store the intimate and essential details about who we are and where we go. Find out how to wipe that information before throwing away or giving away your devices, the FTC warns.

Just as we train our children about the perils of crossing the street and the importance of wearing seatbelts, the FTC says, we need to talk with them about best practices for computer security. You should cover topics such as what makes strong passwords and the importance of keeping them private, the risks of peer-to-peer sharing, what an online scam looks like and how to respond (delete).


The FTC also urges parents to talk with their kids about privacy settings on social media sites and teach them to think before sharing.

The commission also details how to tell whether your child’s identity has been stolen and what to do. Never mind the misspelling in the video below; the information is important and solid.



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