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Teens & Identity Theft in the new Decade

When most parents think of telling their teens about “using protection” or “exercising restraint,” they probably aren’t thinking of identity theft. But just as you’d talk to your preteen or teen about important topics like alcohol, drugs, sex, and safe driving, it’s important to talk to them about one of the biggest threats facing consumers of every age: personal data security.

Now that you’ve breathed a sigh of relief (since this topic might not seem like it’s all that hard to talk about), think again. Identity theft, fraud, scams and the aftermath of all these related crimes are actually tough conversations, mostly because the information changes almost daily with every new form of the crime.

So how do you help raise up a generation of savvy consumers who know how to protect themselves? In exactly the same way you discuss any other important topic with your kids: by getting all the facts and keeping the conversation going.

The first great tool you can use for the most up-to-date information is the TMI Weekly (as in Too Much Information) from the Identity Theft Resource Center. This emailed newsletter contains the most current scam and fraud alerts, data breach news, and more. Once you know the different ways that criminals can go after your data—as well as what they can do with it—you’ll be in a better position to help your child spot a scam before it can hurt them.

Of course, social media is a hotbed for these kinds of crime, yet it’s a tool that so many young people already have access to. Understanding the different social media platforms, the various privacy settings, and the inherent dangers in each platform are critical for any parent before allowing a child to use them. Read up on the FAQs and the Help sections of each platform, and establish safe surfing rules in your home. It’s very important that you keep an open mind to the possibility of mistakes being made, and that your kids know they can come to you even if they’ve broken a rule.

The best teaching tool, though, is your own good habits. Every time your kids see you shredding sensitive documents, running an antivirus scan on your computer, ordering copies of your credit report, monitoring your online accounts, and typing in strong, unique passwords, that’s another open door for a vital conversation. Explain why you’re doing those things, and teach them how they can do it too, whether it’s now or down the road. The proverbial ounce of prevention is actually measured in pounds when it comes to protecting your identity: you can’t have too much and you can’t use it often enough.

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App.