Scammers, cons, thieves, nefarious characters lurking in the shadows… It sounds like the beginning of a spy novel, but alas, these individuals are not only waiting to prey on the unsuspecting but are working hard to lure the innocent and naïve in order to rob and deceive. Not only do we as parents need to protect our children from the darker side of humanity, we must teach them to protect themselves.
When I was growing up, my mom and dad taught me how to answer the home phone. What to say, what not to say and when to just hang up. As I got older, we had lessons on staying home alone, when to answer the door, when not to answer the door, how to call 911 and what to do in case of a fire.
Well, we still have those lessons today, but now with the accessibility of the Internet, parents and educators have to step up their game. It’s not just about saying “I’m sorry my mom is in the shower and unavailable, may I take a message?”
Today scams are wrapped up in innocent and enticing packages in the form of games, prizes and other online entertainment that appeal to today’s youth. “Enter your name to win” and “submit your information for a free________” are easy ways to capture important personal and identifying information and open the door to fraud.
One of my kids and a friend were innocently filling out information on a website to include their names, addresses, school information, ages and I don’t remember what else, but that was enough! Luckily, they asked for my help with some of the information and I was able to intercede and shut it down before they hit submit. I didn’t know if the website they were on was legitimate or not, but that was the point…they didn’t know either!
That experience opened my eyes. I was letting my kids use technology without giving them the proper instruction on using it safely.
Here are a few things you might want to cover with your kids.
Personally identifying information (PII) is just what it sounds like: little pieces of information that in some way identify who you are, like your name, email address, phone number, etc. It is important to safeguard your PII, especially when visiting social networking sites, filling out personal information, engaging in blogging or participating in chat rooms. Children need to understand how a little information here, a little information there, can give someone the complete picture of who they are, where they live and go to school, and when they might be home alone. Warn them that if a site asks for personal information, they should check with you first so you can help them figure out if the site is legitimate. When in doubt, don’t fill it out!
The same rule holds up for phone calls too (minus the good rhyme). Teach your kids to NEVER give information to someone requesting it over the phone unless they have checked with you first.
Keep passwords and PIN numbers secure. Legitimate financial institutions and other honorable businesses will never email you requesting your passwords or pins.
As technology continues to become more accessible, people think of bigger and faster ways to use that technology to their advantage and to your detriment. Stay one step ahead and help your family use technology while protecting their finances, identity and, more importantly, their physical safety.