But when your child becomes a teenager, it’s much more difficult to control what they learn from the outside world and to protect them from external dangers, such as identity theft.
As with all important topics, it’s imperative to educate your teen about identity theft and teach them how they can protect themselves.
Your teen and the internet
Be an active participant and guide as your teen enters the world of social networking. Social websites are as popular with identity thieves as they are with today’s youth. Speak with your child about becoming friends only with people they know outside of cyber-space and why they should limit the personal details they share online. Advise them that they shouldn’t share their date of birth, full name, address, or school. Absence of this information will make it more difficult for criminals to piece together the necessary data to commit identity theft, and could help protect your child’s physical privacy.
Your teen and credit card use
Allowing your teen to get a credit card, or to become an authorized user on an existing credit account, enables him or her to begin building a credit history, which can be useful the first time they need to rent an apartment or qualify for a car loan. It’s also an important step in learning good credit habits. As you teach your teen about smart credit card use, be sure to also speak with them about protecting personal financial details and the implications that identity theft can have on a person’s credit report and score. Teach your teen to carefully review his or her credit card statements for suspicious transactions and advise your teen against lending the credit card to a friend or leaving it out in the open.
When your teen leaves for college
Living in a college dormitory can be a great student experience, and it will be an even better one if your teen takes steps to protect themself from any potential risks and threats that surround them. From an identity theft perspective, there’s usually no need for your teen to take their Social Security card or birth certificate to college. But if he or she must do so, recommend getting a safety deposit box at a nearby bank. When possible, have your teen opt to receive bank statements electronically. And, as obvious as it may sound, remind your teen to lock their dorm room whenever they leave, and to password-protect their computer and phone to minimize unauthorized access to personal information.
It might seem like a crime that happens only to others, but identity theft is on the rise and the implications of a damaged identity can be severe. Have a dialogue with your teen about identity theft and the simple steps he or she can take to protect their information and privacy.