Teaching Teens to Prevent Identity Theft

by Emily Guy Birken · 3 comments

Teen with laptop

While your teenager may be the one to show you how to use Facebook, download apps for your new smartphone, or explain (with a little too much patience) how to access the YouTube video of your toddler nephew, it’s a mistake for both of you 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 may not know how to protect themselves.

In fact, according to the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, “kids under the age of 18 are 51 times more likely to become victims of identity theft than their parents.”

Here’s what you need to know about teens and identity theft to make sure that your child doesn’t become a victim.

Teens Are More Susceptible to Identity Theft

Teenagers are highly susceptible to identity theft for a variety of reasons. The first is practical on the part of the thieves: minors’ identities are very valuable, because they have clean credit histories and aren’t likely to regularly check their credit report. Add to that the fact that there’s no system in place to determine the birth date associated with any particular social security 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 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’re much more likely to fall for a scam, because it doesn’t occur to them that they need to worry.

You Can Prevent Identity Theft

Parents need to make sure they’ve had “The Talk” with their kids about online security. And just like the other uncomfortable parenting talks, it pays to have this conversation before you think you need to. It may seem like common sense that you shouldn’t give out your social security number online (even to friends), but for naïve teens just wading into social networking, they may not realize just how vital keeping that information private may be.

In addition, parents need to stress to their kids how important it is to only provide payment and identifying information to secure sites. Teach them to look for either the padlock icon or a connection beginning with the letters https (rather than http) to know that a site’s secure.

Beware of Games, Quizzes, and Surveys

The number one method that 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. These quizzes can ask for information like your 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 actuality she’s giving important information over to thieves.

Be Vigilant

Since identity thieves are looking for a target who won’t 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 the best solution. It’s up to parents to make sure their children understand the consequences of insecure internet use.

Have you talked about identity theft with your kids? 

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  • AmandaF says:

    Great tips Emily, I have a teen daughter and I am constantly worried about hers and our safety online. One of my friends child was a victim of ID theft, which made us be extra careful when putting credit records online.

  • Mary Deshong Kinkelaar says:

    A really useful article. This is something that can easily be overlooked until it is too late. I will be sharing this post with my clients that have children. Thanks!

  • Thad P says:

    Excellent advice. We assume younger generations are more savvy than they are, at least in terms of dishonest people wanting to get their info!

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