by Mark Singleton
Being middle-aged doesn’t simply refer to the years I have lived. I have found I am smack in the middle of two generations of how people communicate. In general, the older generation wants to converse eye-to-eye while the younger crowd prefers iPhone-to-iPhone.
Without question, new technology is not shackled by old traditions. Facebook, Twitter, My Space, You Tube and other social networking mediums are deeply entrenched in our society. However, professionally and parentally these new lines of communication have me both captivated and concerned.
Professionally, I am entrusted as a banker to protect customer information. Millions of dollars have been invested into keeping the bad guys out of good customers’ accounts. But all the failsafe measures we take on our side of the ledgers can be useless if access to that account information is inadvertently revealed by the customer.
It is estimated that 88% of consumers use only one password for all their accounts. Those passwords are generally very common and easily detected by cyber thieves by simply reviewing people’s Facebook and other personal communication services. In fact, a new virus is attaching to some of the 500 million Facebook users that aids criminals in detecting passwords. Technology is sometimes electrifying and sometimes shocking.
Parentally, I have mixed emotions. My 14 year old son clearly understands that his networks are not a place for bullying or backstabbing. He’s a good kid, so I really don’t fear him compromising his values using the sites he frequents. It’s not my son that concerns me, it’s the crooks out there that are preying on youth and kids naivety in regard to identity theft.
In order for parents to claim IRS deductions for children, at the time of birth, a social security number is required for each dependent child. When young people open their lives up in social networking services from Facebook to Twitter, they often expose personal information that can be used by thieves to open bogus accounts.
It’s critical that parents teach their children the dangers of mobile devices, social media and social-networking sites. Once you begin getting debt collection notices coming to your home in the name of your child, it is too late to have a serious talk about electronic communication safeguards.
You must tell your children that their Social Security number is sacred. If you don’t think your message has sunk in, check their credit report.
In a recent Dallas Morning News article about identity theft, they suggest that you check the three primary credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) in regard to theft of your children’s personal information. “If no credit report is found, it’s good news. But if one exists, it means someone probably opened an account using your child’s name,” stated the DMN article.
Where technology will take us in the next 50 years seems incomprehensible and I hope my son is on the cutting edge of every new development. But theft has been around since one caveman stole another’s dinner except now it is much more advanced. My child and yours should learn the importance of using social networking safely.
More than 11 million people in the U.S. experienced some sort of identity theft last year (an increase of 12% from 2009), according to an annual report by Javelin Strategy & Research.
According to the Javelin report, there are key steps you can take to limit exposure to cyber theft:
· An estimated 13% of the identity thefts that occurred in 2010 were committed by someone known to the victim. Protect information from being exposed through social networking sources.
· Use unique and hard to guess passwords.
· Check your on-line bank statements regularly and if you use a debit card, make sure to subscribe to your bank’s debit card alert program.
The Javelin study found that 43 percent of all reported identity fraud cases were spotted by consumers self-monitoring their accounts through an alert program and thus were able to lower their average out-of-pocket fraud costs.
Someone recently said to me that it wasn’t that long ago that we could leave our doors unbolted and our windows open, but times have changed. That same mentality must also be used in keeping a lock on the information that you let out over the Internet and social networking.