Identity theft is in the spotlight even more now after the huge Equifax data breach. Here are some key steps to keep you banking information, Social Security information and other personal information private.
Identity theft is more common among children, teens and college students because they are more likely to share personal information online.
With more schools shifting to virtual learning this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, students and parents are at an increased risk for identity theft.
Identity theft is more common among children, teens and college students because they are more likely to share personal information online. They tend to be less aware of the signs of fraud and the tricks of scammers.
As the school year gets started, take the time to educate yourself and your family about ways to stay protected while online.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Protect your devices
First, consider installing antivirus software to prevent or remove malware from your computer. Antivirus software will aid in protecting your identity from cybercriminals.
Also, you should create strong and unique passwords for your computers, tablets, iPads and smartphones. Make sure your family knows not to share passwords with anyone outside of your household.
I also encourage implementing two-factor authentication whenever possible to make it harder for an account to get hacked. If you believe you’ve been hacked, change your password immediately.
Additionally, train your child on how to be camera smart. If you have a young child, it may be worth considering a webcam cover that can be easily slid over the camera when it is not needed. Understand the risks and plan accordingly.
Protect your identity
To keep your identity safe online, be cautious before clicking on links and advise your children about this as well. Never respond to pop-ups. If you receive an email from someone you don’t know, do not reply or click on any links in their message.
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Additionally, teach them to pay close attention to the spelling of the sender’s email. Hackers are clever in their emails. For example, hackers may disguise themselves as being with Wells Fargo by sending an email from an address like “[email protected]” by discretely leave the “m” off of “.com.” Watch closely for subtle typos.
The influx of digital communications offers a ripe opportunity for hackers to launch phishing attacks impersonating administrators, teachers or even fellow students.
In a time where people are financially unstable, it’s no surprise that the scammers are out in full force.
Parents and children should be cautious. If you’re not certain an email sender is with your school, try to call the administrator rather than opening the email. It’s better to be safe and double-check.
Similarly, college students and parents should keep an eye out for emails from a “Financial Department” of a university. The Federal Trade Commission even issued a COVID-19 scam warning to help make people aware of potential phishing scams. As you’re applying for financial aid, make sure you’re on the correct website before disclosing personal financial information.
Lastly, you may consider partnering with an ID theft protection agency that continually monitors personal and financial information and alerts you of any suspicious activity.
ID theft protection plans for families now provide free coverage for children younger than 18 years of age. Learn more at www.zander.com/identity-theft-protection.
Doug Sash is the executive vice president of Zander Insurance.
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