How to protect your children against Identity Theft

In the wake of serious data breaches at Optus, Medibank, Woolworth’s MyDeal, one of Australia’s biggest pathology companies Australian Clinical Labs and most recently children’s charity The Smith Family, protecting your identity against theft is an important topic to educate yourself in. 

As an adult this can be very concerning but think about this, some of these organisations will hold data and information for children too. Children today have a digital footprint before they even pick up their first device. To ensure that your child’s data is protected you need to be thinking about the information you are distributing and to whom. We tend to think not much of giving our child’s information to health providers, hospitals, day care and schools as it is a necessary part of caring for your children and intrinsically you believe these institutions are trustworthy and secure.  Unfortunately, even the strongest cyber security encryption software can become vulnerable to cybercrime like data and identity theft.

So how can we protect our families from identity theft. Well first you need to be aware of all the ways data can be collected on your child, it’s not always the most obvious that could catch you off guard. 

Ways in which data can be collected on your child

Connected toys 

Toys are not just toys these days, in any toy aisle you will find toys that can interact with your child, record their voices and often have a corresponding app/website connection for more features has the ability to record information

Public Transport Cards 

Most countries across the globe have public transport smart cards (Go Card, Opal Card, Myki, Smart Rider, MetroCard, Oyster Card) they all track and store travel information of the registered user. Some will only store the travel information of minors for a short period of time and then clear the card however most information is stored indefinitely. 

Smart speakers 

Amazon’s Alexa, Google Nest or Apple’s Siri. There are many others on the market, and each company will record and store commands or requests of the user

Smartwatches, phones, tablets, Garmin, and Fitbit

In Australia, the average age of children who own a smartphone is 12 years old and more than 50% of them also own a tablet. 

Social Media

Children as young as 11 are on social media, and at the very least need to reveal their name, age and potentially a photo of themselves. Very quickly through photos and sharing information about their location, the places they like to visit, their sports team, their school, and their friends.

Early than the age of 11 years parents are sharing more and more about their children. Photos and videos of every event, achievement, and birthday. More often families are spread across two homes, states, or continents, covid stopped a lot of face-to-face interaction and parents are busier than ever, social media keeps people connected. 

Search Engines

Children’s browsing online can reveal likes, dislikes, location information, age, extracurricular activities. 

What can you do to protect your child’s information

Children are hardwired to seek connections and are more likely to share information with people to make friends by discussing common interests. Unfortunately, their desire to make connections can sometimes expose them to identity theft, grooming or cyberbullying.  According to a recent UK Experian Report, child identity fraud or theft will affect 25% of children before they turn 18 years old. Here are some simple steps to empower them to protect their digital footprint and prevent their information getting into the wrong hands.

  1. Talk to them about the importance of protecting their privacy and to be more discerning about what they share. Ask them what a stranger could learn about them online, a looking from the outside in approach
  2. Where they can keep their identity anonymous. Don’t use your name and year of birth as their chat name, social media handle or email
  3. Think about who you are sharing this information with. Would you be happy for your friends, teachers, principal, parents, future employee or the random person you know nothing about in a chat room to know this information
  4. Keep privacy settings on devices, apps and websites strong and install any security updates as soon as they are available. Delete those you don’t use anymore to wipe the data held within them
  5. Ensure that microphones and cameras are turned off on all devices when they are not required
  6. Set strong unique passwords and change them frequently. Don’t have the same password for every account and keep them confidential
  7. Always read terms and conditions they should tell you how your personal data will be stored and will help you to make informed decisions on whether to steer clear of apps, games and websites that don’t prioritise the protection of information especially for minors

If you would like further information on how to keep your children safe online you can subscribe to our Internet Safe Education Cyber Safety Hub by clicking The Hub on the menu above.  

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