8 August 2013
A credit expert is urging parents to focus on maintaining a dialogue with their children and get themselves up to speed with technology, in order to best prevent families from falling prey to the internet’s financial predators.
CEO of MyCRA Credit Rating Repair, Graham Doessel says no parent should be complacent when it comes to their child’s internet use, particularly when they’re engaging in social networking.
“At any age, we can be at risk of sharing too much information, adding suspect friends, downloading malware and falling for scams – all of which can threaten the integrity of not only our finances as parents – but for children, potentially their financial future as well,” he says.
Mr Doessel says his company helps Australians clear adverse listings from their credit file which they believe should not be there. He says no one is immune to financial predators – and when a client experiences identity theft which leads to credit being taken out in their name, they are left financially crippled.
“Basically the victim ends up with defaults on their credit file which unfortunately means they are black listed from credit for 5 years. These victims can’t borrow for anything – they can’t even take out a mobile phone plan,” he says.
His warning comes following the release of the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s (ACMA) special report last Friday, on the way young Australians use the internet and social media.
The report ‘Like, post, share’ explored emerging trends such as the rise of mobile access to the internet.
“Whether it’s for study, playing games or connecting to friends and family, young Australians are placing more and more importance on the online aspects of their lives,” said ACMA Deputy Chairman Richard Bean.
Mr Doessel says there are many reasons for parents to understand their child’s vulnerability to fraud from internet use – but he has identified 5 key reasons:
1. Our kids are actually targets for fraudsters.
Just because children are not 18, doesn’t mean they are not financially at risk. There have been warnings from Police about crooks scrolling through thousands of social networking pages purposely looking for young people, because they usually have the most open privacy settings.
That information is not used right away, but is stored or ‘warehoused’ until the young people turn 18. They can then go on a ‘spending spree’ with the young person’s fake identity and credit.
Mr Doessel says kids can also put their parents’ credit file at risk.
“Downloading viruses can also mean the family computer is put at risk – which can threaten the financial identity of anyone using that computer for banking or other sensitive activities, and sharing too much information about parents can also be dangerous,” Mr Doessel says.
2. Kids are on the net at increasing rates.
According to the ACMA’s report, the percentage of Australian eight to nine year olds who rate the internet as ‘very important’ in their lives has doubled since 2009.
Up to 35 per cent of eight to 11-year-olds have their own mobile phone, rising to 94 per cent of 16 to 17-year-olds.
As children and young people get older their understanding of the internet and their use of it increases.
“Older children and young people come to view the internet as a primary activity in and of itself and a source of entertainment, information and education,” the report says.
One emergent area of avid use has been identified as social networking services, with the ACMA stating that it has become a “primary means of building, negotiating and presenting their social identities.”
3. Social networking is incredibly risky.
Mr Doessel says social networking offers fraudsters a whole host of personal information which can be misused.
“Personal information can be extracted from social network sites, and fraudsters can build a profile on the victim – which can lead to identity theft and subsequent fraud,” he says.
Social networking risks can include predatory friend requests, extraction of ‘public’ information for fraudulent use, viruses which include malware to extract passwords and other personal information from computers, and scam emails.
Despite the risks, the ACMA report shows privacy is not always practiced by children.
“Compared to their theoretical knowledge, perception and awareness of risks, their actual behaviour demonstrates that this knowledge is often not put into practice,” the report states.
4. Pre-teens are vulnerable.
The ACMA reports that parents need to think about starting conversations about cyber-safety with their kids earlier, with fewer eight to 11 year olds reporting having discussed issues of cyber-safety with their parents than 12 to 17 year olds.
Younger teens are also slightly less likely to have private profiles or take other steps to manage their privacy.
“From the research it seems that there is an age threshold of around 14 onwards where the relevance of a
5. Our kids think they know more than us (and often they’re right!).
Parents are the main source of advice and support for young people who are experiencing difficulties online, and ideally should be perceived as the authority on technology matters.
“If parents don’t know their way around the web, they owe it to themselves and their family to get to know,” Mr Doessel says.
“Whilst we can offer more freedom as they age, children still require our parenting in the virtual world as they would in the real one,” he says.
The ACMA report shows when messages were delivered by individuals who children and young people perceive as being authorities in the area as well as having active knowledge of the activities they pursue, then such messages of cyber-safety can really get through.
For more advice on protecting your financial identity, or for recovering from identity theft, people can go to MyCRA’s website http://www.mycra.com.au/identity-theft/.
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