If you know how to help your child stay smart online, you could just be protecting their future credit rating. One of the focuses of Stay Smart Online Week 2014 is protecting our children and helping them have safe and positive experiences online. There are significant risks to children in using the internet. Many parents may know that apart from the potential exposure to sexually explicit, violent, prohibited or even illegal content, our children may also experience cyber bullying or be at risk from contact by strangers.
What many parents don’t know is that children are also a target for fraudsters. If they are not smart online, they may be at risk of damaging their credit rating, before they even have one. We reveal the dangers for children online when it comes to identity theft and their credit rating, as well as giving some general tips to help your child stay smart and stay safe online.
By Graham Doessel, Non-Legal Director of MyCRA Lawyers www.mycralawyers.com.au . Stay Smart Online Week 2014.
Protecting the integrity of your child’s credit rating is a crucial part of protecting them online. A trick by fraudsters termed ‘data warehousing’ could mean we may see a new generation of identity theft victims. The fraud takes personal information (often freely available) and stores it until the child comes of age to take out credit or to apply for identity documents. The information is then used to take out loans, create false accounts or commit crimes.
If the personal information is used to take out loans, the young person can end up with a series of defaults or other black marks and may be totally unaware until they apply for their first loan or credit card. For 5 years they could be locked out of credit, refused cards, loans, even mobile phones. It need not be major fraud to be a massive blow to the identity theft victim. Unpaid accounts for as little as $150 can have the same negative impact on someone’s ability to obtain credit as a missed mortgage payment. So any misuse of someone’s credit file can be extremely significant.
Proving the case of identity theft when attempting to recover a clear credit rating is already difficult for the individual to undertake, as the onus is on the victim to prove to creditors they didn’t initiate the credit. Adding to that the fact that the perpetrator would be long gone with the actual act of identity theft happening years earlier – and those young people will have a very difficult task of recovery indeed.
Late last year, the Courier Mail featured a story where Police were warning parents about criminals who are tracking the lives of children online, harvesting personal information to steal their identities once they become adults. The story, titled ‘Social media enables cyber criminals to build profiles for identity theft’ delved in to just how this type of fraud can occur.
Queensland police fear a generation of youngsters could be burnt by their obsession for revealing all on the internet – left with bad credit ratings or associated with crimes they had no part in.
Detective Inspector Phillip Stevens from the police service’s fraud and cyber crime group said criminals were harvesting the information for their own illegal purposes or to sell it to other fraudsters.
He said social media sites were prime sources of information for online criminals. Names, ages, places of birth and addresses were all being stored and he warned parents to stop their children putting too many details online.
“Everyone is a potential victim but we see children as vulnerable (because of the level of detail they post online),” Insp Stevens said.
He said products such as low-document loans allowed criminals to apply for money over the internet.
The lack of robust identity checking was enabling fraudsters to take out loans with stolen identities, he said.
“By using a computer, criminals have no borders, can access more victims and recycled stolen identities.”
He said by the time some children and adults become more savvy about their online personal details they may have already been a victim.
“Identities are used for more than just fraudulent financial gains, they also used within the criminal environment as a means of providing a level of anonymity, in order to evade traditional policing methodologies.
“If you have access to a supply of identities you can hide within the environment, commit crime under one name and hire a car with another. It makes it very difficult for police to actually know who they are looking for.”
So how can we protect our children?
It begins with taking an active role in your child’s computer use, and realising that their personal information is just as coveted as our own. Perhaps even more so – as the likelihood the child will have a clean credit history to begin with is even higher.
It starts with talking to your kids about the internet, and to do that, you need to understand the spaces they are communicating in by being involved. Keep up with the latest sites and technologies to ensure you are always able to give relevant input to your child.
Put an emphasis on protection, from settings to passwords on all devices and accounts, and encourage regular updating of passwords and codes. And ensure that they understand the importance of protecting their personal information no matter what age they are.
Here are some other general tips which can help you ensure you are protecting your child online in all sectors, courtesy of Stay Smart Online:
• Know what your children are doing online-make sure they know how to stay safe and encourage them to tell you if they come across anything suspicious or if anybody says or does something that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened.
• Get to know the technologies your children are using. This will help you understand the risks and to be able to talk to them about what they are doing online.
• Discuss the risks with your children and agree on some rules for internet use. Post them clearly near your computer.
• Tell your children if they are uncomfortable talking to you they can contact the Cybersmart Online Helpline (Kids Helpline) www.cybersmart.gov.au
• Place the computer in a family area of the home – the family or living room, rather than a bedroom.
• Install an internet content filter. This can be used to restrict what content is viewed and downloaded or the times when they can use the internet.
• Make sure your children know not to share personal information or photos. This includes their full name, mailing address, telephone number, the name of their school, or any information that could allow someone to work out who they are and where they live.
• Report inappropriate, harmful or criminal activities that occur online or via a mobile device to www.thinkuknow.org.au
• Report offensive content to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). You can do this by completing the relevant online form at www.acma.gov.au/hotline or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 1800 880 176
Don’t let your children get caught with credit rating defaults that should not be there. Don’t let fraudsters take over their good name. Educate yourself and your child on what a valuable commodity your personal information is, and how you and your child can protect what is your ticket to financial freedom in this modern world – your credit file – from fraud.
So our message this week is: take heed online, and safeguard your personal information to prevent identity theft and credit file misuse.
For more information on credit file misuse, or to get more help or information about the security of your credit file, visit our main site www.mycralawyers.com.au, or you can contact us on 1300 667 218.
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