Online security and data privacy is important to everyone now more than ever. It’s what prevents people from taking your money and your personal information. It’s especially important for young people to know how to protect their online identities and data.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received nearly 400,000 identity theft complaints in 2016, and 15% of those came from consumers aged 20-29. Moreover, according to a recent Javelin Strategy and Research study, house-holds headed by individuals aged 18-24 are the most vulnerable.
Even more disturbing among Javelin's findings is that 22 percent of students studied discovered they were victims of ID theft after being denied credit or contacted by a debt collector – that’s three times higher than other fraud victims! In fact, students were four times more likely to be taken advantage of by someone they know compared with other consumers.
So why in particular are young people so easy to target? For one thing, most students don’t have a credit history, making their blank slates easy to steal. They don't typically do a regular check of their credit reports, so If their identity is stolen, it can go undetected even for years.
Fortunately, there are several necessary precautions they can take to avoid it. Why don't you first take this fun identity theft quiz to see how much you really know. Then, if you want to ensure your family's information stays safe, consider checking out these seven prevention tips below:
7 Tips to Protect Your Family's Online Identity
1. DEFEND AND DEFEAT!
Celebrities, politicians and major corporations get hacked. Even when they restore their accounts, there are “digital footprints” containing searchable breadcrumbs left in cyberspace. That’s why digital security is a must! Make sure your devices (including cell phones, PCs and tablets) are protected with antispyware, antivirus, anti-phishing and ﬁrewall software protection.
2. BEWARE BEFORE YOU SHARE! In previous generations, knowledge was power, but in today’s world, shared knowledge is power. To limit the transparency of you or your loved one’s online security (and hence vulnerability to theft), beware what you share. It’s ok to share some things, but it doesn’t mean you should reveal everything, including easy-to-access personal answers to security questions (i.e., “What city did you grow up in”)?
3. SHARING IS NOT CARING: Did you know "123456" and "Password" are the most common passwords used today, as well as "Star Wars" and "iloveyou"? Read “The 25 Most Popular Passwords of 2017" to see if yours is on the list. Then make sure your passwords are complex, contain a combo of letters, numbers and symbols--oh, and don’t tape them under your desk chair to remind you “in case you forget.” For some easy ways to create safe passwords, check out "Fun Passwords" by Cyber Civics' Diana Graber.
4. BE ALERT AND APP AVERT: Keep in mind mobile devices such as cell phones and tablets can also be hacked. Cautiously select the apps you want and avoid any apps with poor user ratings or come from unknown locations or sources. And last but not least, to get really appy-happy, it’s a safe bet to only download apps from reputable places such as the Google Play or iTunes store.
5. BYE-BYE WIFIHave you ever gone to a coﬀee shop or restaurant only to discover they don’t have WiFi?! That would have never been an issue eight years ago, but now “it’s an outrage”! Actually, it’s generally ok to use public WiFi, but never shop online, log into credit accounts, or do any banking transactions while on a public connection.
6. BE CYBERWISE AND MEMORIZE: Social Security numbers (SSN) were never designed to be secure. When they came into existence 75 years ago, they had one purpose: to keep track of contributions to the federal pension system. Important ID info like your driver's license and SSN numbers will be needed throughout your life for important purchases and events. Memorize them now so that you’ll never have to carry these numbers with you.
7. TO CATCH A THIEF
Monitor your credit report regularly. It’s much easier to catch an identity thief early on by keeping tabs on your credit standings rather than having to make a million damage control calls later.
RUN DON'T WALK to Protect Your Online Presence!
By following these 7 tips, you will be well on your way to safer identify theft and data protection. If you decide you'd like to dive deeper and really get cyberwise about online safety, consider taking our online course, "How to Protect Your Online Privacy." It's a fun and easy way for you and your family to understand how and why websites and social networking sites gather your personal data and offers invaluable strategies to help protect the privacy of all the internet users in your household.
About Cynthia Lieberman: Cynthia Lieberman is co-Founder, CyberWise.org and owner of Lieberman Communications, a content marketing and PR consultancy firm for Fortune 500 companies. Equipped with a graduate degree in Media Psychology and Social Change, Lieberman is a Board of Director for the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE). She teaches Social Media Marketing at UCLA Extension and recently served as an Adjunct Professor in Mass Communications at California State University, Northridge.