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5 lesser-known tips to protect your family from identity theft

protecting-your family from identity theft

In 2017 there were 16.7 million victims of identity fraud in the United States – a record high, according to a study by Javelin researchers. Children fall among the most vulnerable targets for identity theft due to the existence of so many points of entry.

These access points include tablets, mobile phones, computers, and good old-fashioned home break-ins. As a result, protecting your family from a security breach can feel overwhelming.

However, there are ways to reduce risk and increase identity theft protection. Use the following tips to keep you and your family safe.

1.  Use long, random passphrases

Unless your password is a random set of letters, numbers, and characters, it’s easier to crack than you might think.

To reduce your chances of a security breach, keep the following tips in mind:

Create a long passphrase.

Don’t write passwords on notes near your computer.

Don’t use identical passwords across multiple accounts.

Don’t use words or numbers that are significant to you.

Fraudsters scan public profiles for personal information and identifying details to try to crack passwords. That’s why it’s important not to use things like birth dates, pet names, or details about your kids in your passwords. Especially for the most important online accounts, such as your bank, insurance, or home Wi-Fi.

The easiest way to create secure passwords is to use random (meaningless) phrases mixed with numbers and symbols (e.g., Fox8thegiAntsandwich!).

Because it’s difficult to keep track of multiple random passwords, consider using a dedicated password manager to generate and save secure passwords. That way all your passwords are truly random and saved in a secure location.

2. Be careful using smart speakers and other automated toys

The Internet of Things and smart tech have created a more connected world than ever before. In fact, even some children’s toys can now connect to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. However, not all smart tech is secure.

Several toy manufacturers have come under fire in the past few years for having inadequate security and, in some cases, data breaches that put millions of children’s personal information at risk.

If you decide to buy a smart toy, do your research ahead of time. One important thing to look for is where the data is stored. If data is stored directly on the toy, the risk should be relatively small. If the data is sent to a server, it could be stolen by hackers who eventually use the information for credit card fraud or identity theft. 

Play it safe by inputting only false info (e.g., fake birth dates and pseudonyms), or consider forgoing smart toys altogether.

3. Upgrade your home security

The digital world isn’t the only place your family is at risk. The home is often where identity theft begins. Burglars aren’t just looking for fancy jewelry or TVs—personal information can be much more valuable.

Always keep important documents such as passports, birth certificates, Social Security cards, and other sensitive records in a locked safe or file cabinet. And be extra cautious during high-risk periods when thieves are more active, such as over holidays—never share your vacation plans publicly until after you’ve returned home.

Also, think about investing in a home security system so you can keep tabs on your property while you’re away and protect your family 24/7.

4. Monitor and freeze your child’s credit

Children are likely targets for identity theft because they have clean credit and the theft is likely to go undetected for years until the child is older. By this time, the damage is done, making it difficult for the child to apply for credit, get school loans, and pursue job opportunities.

Luckily, there are steps you can take to prevent credit fraud. One of the best ways is credit monitoring to keep tabs on your child’s credit. If you notice any bank loans, credit card applications, or other activity, your child’s identity has likely been compromised and you need to take immediate action and report the fraud.

You can also go one step further to prepare and freeze your child’s credit until they’re older. A credit freeze limits access to your child’s credit file, making it harder for would-be thieves to open accounts in your child’s name.

5. Talk to your kids about internet safety

Once your child can use their own digital devices, they’re at a greater risk of a security breach. Talk to your children early and often about how to stay safe on the internet. Teach them to avoid sharing personal information (such as full names, birth dates, addresses, or school names), talking to strangers online, and making online purchases without your permission.

By limiting how much information you share online, you can protect your family from child identity theft, credit fraud, or worse.

As the world becomes more connected, thieves and fraudsters have more opportunities to take advantage of you and your family. Follow these tips to protect yourself and your children for years to come.

By Andrea Harvey