New Year’s Resolution: Protect Your Family’s Digital Footprint

Children Using Devices

*Originally posted January 14, 2019. Updated January 12, 2020.*

Fostering a Familial Digital Resilience

Our constant internet usage empowers cybercriminals to formulate countless methods for hijacking our personal information and then use it to commit identity theft and fraud. And, although different generations within a household may have different priorities online, all generations within the family are vulnerable.

The start of a New Year is a great time to emphasize the importance of safe online behavior for all those you care for and care about. Let’s review some safe practices that provide increased protection for keeping personal information secure.

Monitor & Influence Your Children’s Online Activity

How much time do your children spend scrolling and posting to social media, communicating using messaging apps, or playing the latest connected video game?

The Children’s Commissioners Who Knows What About Me report describes how children have their information plastered all over social media from an early age, reaching 70,000 images by the time they’re 18, thanks in part to parents sharing photos from birth to the point they create their own social accounts as teenagers. By divulging personal information such as their full names, birth date and gender to social media, also known as sharenting, parents put their children’s identity at risk.

However, sharing on social media is not the only digital impression a child makes. Parents need to make their children aware of the risks behind smart toysvirtual assistants, and public Wi-Fi.

As technology continues to innovate, children and parents need to be more aware of what they share and consider the consequences. It continues to be critical for parents to remind their children not to overshare Personally Identifiable Information (PII) when creating new accounts online – whether for classroom apps or apps just for fun. The last thing your family needs is your child’s personal information leaked onto the dark web, where identity thieves can use it to commit synthetic identity theft.

Identity theft is not just an adult problem—kids are becoming victims at an alarming rate. According to Javelin’s 2018 Child Identity Fraud Study, more than one million children were victims of identity fraud in 2017. Families of the victims pay $540 million in out-of-pocket expenses.

Three Tips to Protect Children Online

The first key to protection is knowledge. Here’s how to better understand what online activities your children are engaging in:

  • Place computers in high traffic areas and frequently review your children’s browser history to ensure they are visiting appropriate websites
  • Take the time to play the online games your kids are interested in, so you’re aware of the environment and interactions
  • Download parental control applications that allow you to approve or block apps your children want to download and manage in-app purchases

Parents Need Protection Too

Social media is a common online activity for people of all ages, but adults also use the internet for different purposes than their children. Whether working from home or online shopping, banking, and paying bills electronically, there are many more opportunities for their PII to become compromised.

In the U.S., 33 percent of adults have experienced identity theft, which is more than twice the global average. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the average loss per ID theft incident is $1,343. 

Understanding your internet presence and where your personal data might live within the “cloud” or the broader web is also important. Revisit the information you may be sharing on online platforms and limit the opportunity of that information getting into the wrong hands.

Three Tips for Online Safety for Adults

  • Install a mobile threat defense solution on your phone that will alert you of rogue applications, spyware, and unsafe wireless connections
  • Never use public Wi-Fi when online banking or shopping
  • Refrain from having family members use your work-issued devices for personal reasons

Helping Grandparents and the Elderly

For years, seniors have been duped into sending checks and gift cards after receiving a tragic phone call from imposter grandchildren and friends. What makes us believe they are safe online? From email phishing scams asking them to update their Medicare account information to clicking on ads embedded with malware, the elderly population is a favorite target for cybercriminals.

In 2018, the Justice Department announced its largest-ever sweep of elder fraud cases, involving 250 defendants worldwide who victimized more than 1 million seniors out of more than $500 million.

Elderly are often less tech savvy than those of younger generations, and therefore more susceptible to scams online. It is up to the whole family to safeguard and educate them on safely surfing the web.

Three Tips to Protect the Elderly Online

  • Help the elderly members of your household with their online Medicare/Medicaid/Social Security and other virtual accounts
  • Educate seniors on how to detect a scam such as grammar and spelling errors on emails and ads that request personal information
  • Invest in antivirus and cybersecurity protection on all devices to protect against mobile and online threats

Safeguarding the Entire Family

Danger lurks where we least expect it, and cybercriminals are ready to take any opportunity to steal our information online. There’s no better time than a New Year to practice increased online safety.

  1. Create complex passwords. Use a password manager to keep track of your passwords and make sure your family’s passwords are difficult to crack
  2. Use a VPN software to encrypt data. Protect everyone’s devices against cyber vulnerabilities
  3. Make sure your Wi-Fi is password protected. Be confident that your family can surf the web on a secure network
  4. Keep up with the latest data breaches and scams. Ensure your family’s information is not in the hands of cybercriminals

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of EZShield Inc. alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or entity, including specifically any person or entity affiliated with the distribution or display of this content.

Donna is the Chief Marketing Officer of Sontiq, the parent company of the EZShield and IdentityForce brands. She is responsible for global marketing initiatives...
Read more about Donna Parent.

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