How a Credit Freeze Can Protect Your Kids Online

How to limit ID theft risks and more for kids online: Internet Scambusters #870

Today’s parents are the first generation that has to worry about protecting their kids online.

But there are plenty of laws, regulations, and guidelines to help you safeguard them, as we explain in this week’s issue.

Plus, we also have a warning on how scammers are hoping to cash in on the recent Equifax data breach settlement.

Let’s get started…


How a Credit Freeze Can Protect Your Kids Online


It’s bad enough that many of us struggle to protect ourselves adequately on the web, but even worse is the thought that our kids online are even more vulnerable – and often they don’t realize it.

Recognizing this, over the years, several organizations have acted to alert youngsters and parents to the risks and to introduce new rules and regulations to protect them.

Most recently, a new federal law in the US adds to the protection from fraud and identity theft for young people. It lets parents and guardians implement a security freeze on the records of under-16s held by credit reporting agencies.

That’s because identity thieves commonly try to use the names of youngsters to take out loans and other credit agreements.

As the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) notes:

“Minors typically don’t have credit reports, which means that a young person may not find out about issues with their credit reports until they first try to get credit – perhaps even years later.”

The free, freezing process restricts banks and other financial agencies from accessing an individual’s credit record. If the bank or agency can’t check the record, they more than likely will not provide finance to the applicant.

You don’t need to believe your child’s ID has been stolen or their account otherwise compromised to take this action. You can just place a freeze to protect against any such acts in the future.

And if a child doesn’t already have a credit record, the three reporting agencies will create one, so it can be frozen, preventing anyone else from trying to open an account in your child’s name.

“Depending on the adult’s relationship to the child, there are different procedures to put a freeze in place,” the FTC explains. “Parents need to show proof of their authority, like a birth certificate, to freeze or unfreeze the credit file for their child under 16.”

There are different rules for welfare or probation agencies.

In all cases, you need to contact each of the credit reporting agencies to put the freeze in place.

This new rule isn’t the only one to protect kids online. The main law is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which we mentioned in one of our Snippets issues, Bogus Contractors, Funeral Notice Virus & Safe Harbor for Kids, some time ago.

This law protects under-13s by requiring parental consent before a website gathers information about them. And it limits games and competition sites from gathering information about young participants.

Find out more about COPPA on the FTC website.

Guidance for Parents and Kids

So, how exactly do you get involved with your children’s online activities? The best approach is to share and agree a set of rules or guidelines.

According to the non-profit KidsHealth.org, youngsters should be told:

  • Don’t post or trade personal photos.
  • Don’t disclose personal information like phone numbers, address or school name. And use a screen name, not your real name.
  • Never agree to physically meet someone you met online without parental agreement.
  • If someone sends you a hurtful or threatening email, text or social media post, don’t respond. Tell your parents, teacher or another trusted adult.

Parents should also spend time together with children so they know how to behave online, and the computer should be kept in a common area where parents can monitor use.

Furthermore, says KidsHealth.org in a doctor-approved article, you should learn what kind of online protection your children’s school offers, as well as activities at other places outside the home and school – friends’ homes or a children’s club, for example.

“Take your child seriously if he or she reports an uncomfortable online exchange…” the organization advises. “Watch for warning signs of a child being targeted by an online predator.”

These signs might include children spending an unusual length of time online, phone calls from people you don’t know, unsolicited gifts arriving for your child, or your child suddenly turning off their computer or switching screens when you approach them.

Talking to Teens

With teens, it can become more difficult to monitor their activities, especially if they use a smartphone. It’s perfectly normal for them to want privacy and resent your intrusion.

But that shouldn’t stop you from talking to them about the risks and reminding them that people they encounter online might not be who they think they are and cannot be counted on to tell the truth.

“Taking an active role in your kids’ Internet activities helps ensure that they benefit from them without being exposed to the potential dangers,” KidsHealth points out. Read their full report, Internet Safety (for Parents).

Today’s parents are the first generation to have to worry about their kids online. We have much to learn – and we can never let our guard down.

Alert of the Week

After last week’s alert about claiming compensation following the Equifax data breach, consumer organizations are warning about scam sites that claim to be able to help you. In reality, they either want to charge you for their service or steal your personal information.

It’s easy to bypass them. Just start at https://ftc.gov/Equifax, nowhere else.

Time to close today, but we’ll be back next week with another issue. See you then!