Posts

Is There a Good Side to Facebook?

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AskSileo Episode 5: Is there a good side to Facebook?

There are absolutely good sides to Facebook and social networking. They engage people in ways that they aren’t engaged otherwise. As your children experience that moment of euphoria that comes from these new connections, use their enthusiasm to start a conversation about what is appropriate online and what isn’t. The more you get involved, the safer they will be.

What are your questions? Let me know if the comments box below. Who knows, your question might appear next on AskSileo!
For more tips on privacy, identity and reputation control, subscribe to the AskSileo video series or to the Sileo Blog.

Does Facebook Chemically Addict My Child?

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AskSileo Episode 4: Does Facebook Chemically Addict My Child?

When we talk about ourselves, it is scientifically proven that we get mini hits of a natural drug called dopamine. It makes us feel better and because of that, it is addictive. Facebook, and social media are all about talking about ourselves. Why does Facebook have 1 Billion users? Because they have an addictive business model, and we are it’s test subjects.

What are your questions? Let me know if the comments box below. Who knows, your question might appear next on AskSileo!
For more tips on privacy, identity and reputation control, subscribe to the AskSileo video series or to the Sileo Blog.

How Long Does it Take to Secure Facebook?

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AskSileo Episode 3: How long should I spend setting up Facebook’s privacy and security settings?

If you haven’t spent at least 90 minutes with your child setting up their Facebook account, you can be pretty certain that they are not as protected as they should be. Here are the three most important security steps that will make your child much safer on social media:

  • Read through and customize each Privacy Setting in Facebook
  • Do the same for the Security Settings
  • If your child is old enough (if they are following the 13 and older rule, they are old enough) have them read through Facebook’s Data Use Policy, taking notes on what they learn. There is nothing like reading it for themselves to get them to care about what they are exposing to the world.
What are your questions? Let me know if the comments box below. Who knows, your question might appear next on AskSileo!
For more tips on privacy, identity and reputation control, subscribe to the AskSileo video series or to the Sileo Blog.

Are Your Kids Being Pressured to Use Facebook?

AskSileo Episode 2: Is there Social Pressure to be on Facebook?

Undoubtedly, our kids face social pressure and pay a penalty if they decide to not be on Facebook. They are often accused of not being cool, feel left out of social events and updates that are no longer communicated in person and are looked at differently (out of touch) for choosing to not join the masses.

I want to hear about the social pressures your kids have faced! Share with us in the comments below. 
For more tips on privacy, identity and reputation control, subscribe to the AskSileo video series or to the Sileo Blog.

Oh No! My Kid Wants to Get on Facebook… What Now?

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I’m starting a new video series on my AskSileo YouTube channel to address common questions that parents have about their kid’s safety on Facebook and online privacy in general.

AskSileo Episode 1: Children’s Safety on Facebook and Social Networking (drawing from first-hand experience)

I get this question all of the time: Is my kid safe on Facebook? The answer to that questions depends on three basic factors:

  • The amount of time you have invested in helping your child set up their Facebook account. If you haven’t spent at least 90 minutes in the process, they are in no way safe. It takes at least 1.5 hours to wisely populate their profile, customize privacy and security settings and read through the Facebook Data Use Policy (notice that Facebook no longer refers to it as a privacy policy, because the reality is that you have almost no privacy on Facebook).
  • The amount of time you have spent training your child in an age appropriate way on the risks associated with sharing information on Facebook (stalking, Like-jacking, college admissions background checks, malware loading, identity theft, cyber bullying, social manipulation, digital blackmail, location tracking, surfing behavior analysis, purchase and sale of private information by marketing companies, etc.)
  • The degree to which you engage in Facebook yourself and use it as a tool to communicate and monitor your child’s online behavior. Social media is about conversation, and the most important person you can converse with is your child. In the same way that you would parent them in a restaurant if they used foul language, wore risque clothing or bullied another child, so you must be part of their virtual life. If you are not involved in your child’s online life on a daily basis, they have an identity about which you know nothing.
It’s one thing to talk about privacy as an expert on the topic and another to actually live through it with a child (without killing them). Which is why I have decided to create a video log while helping my 14-year-old daughter get safely onto Facebook. Enough theory, let’s talk practice.
I will admit right up front that I am learning as much as you are during this process, so your comments and feedback below are welcomed and will help educate other parents just trying to figure this thing out.
What are your questions? Let me know if the comments box below. Who knows, your question might appear next on AskSileo!
For more tips on privacy, identity and reputation control, subscribe to the AskSileo video series or to the Sileo Blog.

How to Prevent Child Identity Theft

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Fraud Expert John Sileo discusses why your child is 51X more likely to become a victim of ID Theft on Fox Business.

Why are our kids, the very people we most want to protect, so vulnerable to identity theft? Because they have unused, unblemished credit profiles. According to Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab 10.2% of the children in a recent report had someone else using their Social Security numbers. That figure is 51 times higher than the rate for adults of the same population.

Thieves steal a child’s identity early on, nurture it until they have a solid credit score, and then abuse and discard it. If it’s not discovered in time, fraudulent use of your child’s identity could mean the loss of educational and job opportunities and starting off adulthood at a serious disadvantage with someone else’s bad credit in her name.

Oddly enough, credit checks do not have any way to match your child’s date of birth with that listed with the Social Security Administration. Therefore, the criminal can put down any date of birth and gain access to your child’s credit. The most unsettling part is thatthe age of the applicant (in this case,the person posing as your child) becomes official with the credit bureaus upon the first credit application.This makes clearing a sabotaged credit record even more difficult because you have to prove to the credit bureau that your child is a child and not responsible for thousands of dollars of debt.

In most cases, you won’t discover the illegal purchases and identity theft until your child applies for a job, tries to get a driver’s license or enters college. At that point, you are left with the time-consuming dilemma of cleaning up someone else’s fraudulent mess. If only clearing up a credit report was as easy as cleaning up after your kids.

Common Sources of Child Identity Theft

  1. Undocumented Workers who need identities to keep working in the US (see NBC News Video Above).
  2. Organized Criminals who reap huge financial gains with little risk of prosecution.
  3. Friendly Fraudsters (friends and relatives) who abuse their relationship with the child to cover debts and expensive habits.

Here are some of the ways your child’s information is stolen:

  • When registering for daycare, schools and recreational sports
  • On medical, dental and hospital records
  • When joining organizations like the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, etc.
  • When their identity is stored and accessed by volunteers or employees
  • When one of the above organizations is breached by a hacker or malicious software
  • When an adult befriends your child on a Facebook and socially engineers private information out of them

For parents, cleaning up the disaster of identity theft for their children is costly and incredibly time consuming. Getting a new Social Security number is almost impossible, and rarely the best option. Taking steps right now to protect your child from this horrible crime is one of the greatest investments you will ever make in their financial and emotional future.

Consequences of Child ID Theft

Acting now on behalf of your child will protect them from consequences common to child victims:

  • Starting adulthood with a credit rating low enough to scare away the hungriest of loan sharks.
  • Being denied a loan, credit card or apartment rental because of a crime committed 10-15 years earlier .
  • Being denied access to college, financial aid or a new job based on a past criminal record, falsified earnings or tarnished reputation.
  • Having an arrest warrant for crimes your child didn’t commit.

Protecting Your Children

In the same way that you can’t protect your children from every bruise and scrape, you can’t entirely remove the risk of identity theft. You can, however, prevent or soften the fall if it does happen. Take these steps first:

  1. Watch for mail in your child’s name. This is a potential sign that credit has been established using their identity. The most common types of mail that signal identity theft are financial (pre-approved credit cards, etc.).
  2. Consider ordering a free credit report for your child. If you suspect foul play, write to the three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to see if your child has a credit profile (no profile, no chance that it is being used illegally). If they do have an active credit profile, you will need to resolve this with the specific credit bureau. Please note that requesting your child’s credit report repeatedly can actually establish a credit profile in their name. For a more convenient option, use an identity monitoring service for you and your family that alerts you when credit is established in any of your names.
  3. Stop giving out your child’s personal information. Until you are confident that it is absolutely necessary to receive the services desired, withhold their personal information. More than 80% of organizations that ask for your child’s Social Security number don’t actually need it to establish services. If you must give it, ask them how they will use it, how long they will keep it and how it will be protected while they have it.
  4. Protect your child’s identity documents. Birth certificates, passports, bank account information, wills and trusts involving children should all be locked securely in a fire-safe or bank’s safety deposit box. Physical document theft is one of the most prevalent ways kid’s identities are stolen.
  5. If you find evidence of fraudulent activity, contact the police, the source of the fraud and all three credit bureaus. Filing a police report helps to establish your child’s innocence in an official way.Have the credit bureaus FREEZE your child’s credit for maximum protection. Keep detailed records of all correspondence between yourself, the police, the merchant and the credit bureaus. It will come in handy should you ever find yourself in court, as I did.
  6. Educate your children on the importance of protecting their personal information. Teach them about the value of their personal information: their name, address, phone numbers, email address, Social Security Number and any passwords and PIN numbers. Reinforce that they own their private information and that it should not be shared with friends, over the internet or with anyone whom they don’t know or trust.Education is absolutely the best financial gift you will ever give to them.

In the case of child identity theft, an ounce of prevention is worth a lifetime of financial security. Don’t let the center of your universe become just another statistic. Because you love and protect your children as much as I do, start this process immediately.

John Sileo is an award-winning author and speaker on social media privacy, data security, fraud and identity theft. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer, the FDIC, and Homeland Security. Sample his Keynote Presentations or watch him on Anderson Cooper, 60 Minutes or Fox Business

Child ID Theft Expert: Your Child is 51X More Likely to Become Victim

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Allowing our children the innocence of their childhood is paramount to us as parents.  Because our children are pretty much the center of our universe, we want to do everything in our power to keep them safe and to safeguard their futures. In this information age, identity theft has become global in its reach and can have devastating consequences for our children’s futures if we’re not vigilant from the day they acquire a Social Security number.

Why are our kids, the very people we most want to protect, so vulnerable? Because they have unused, unblemished credit profiles. Richard Power, Distinguished Fellow, Carnegie Mellon CyLab, recently published the first ever child identity theft report based on identity protection scans of over 40,000 U.S. children. It is extremely alarming that 10.2% of the children in the report had someone else using their Social Security numbers. That figure is 51 times higher than the rate for adults of the same population.

We take so many steps to protect our children. But how often do you check their credit report? “Check my kid’s …credit report?,” I can hear you say. “She is only seven! She doesn’t even have her front teeth yet, let alone a credit card! There are so many years to go before we need to worry about that. Right?”

Unfortunately, no. Because children have untouched and unblemished credit records, they are highly attractive targets. Child identity theft is profitable, hard to detect and a nightmare to recover. Thieves steal a child’s identity early on, nurture it until they have a solid credit score, and then abuse and discard it. If it’s not discovered in time, fraudulent use of your child’s identity could mean the loss of educational and job opportunities and starting off adulthood at a serious disadvantage with someone else’s bad credit in her name. All an identity thief needs to ruin your child’s bright financial future is her name and Social Security Number.

“Shouldn’t my child’s age show up on any credit background check, shouldn’t the merchant recognize that the person in front of them buying a car on credit isn’t seven years old?” you ask. Yes, it should, but the people screening the credit report rarely give it the time and care necessary to detect fraud.

All too often, background checks involve simply matching the name and the Social Security number provided. This leaves doors wide open for scandalous minds to wreak havoc on your child’s perfect credit. The most unsettling part is that the age of the applicant (in this case, the person posing as your child) becomes official with the credit bureaus upon the first credit application. This makes clearing a sabotaged credit record even more difficult because you have to prove to the credit bureau that your child is only seven and isn’t responsible for thousands of dollars of debt.

In no time at all, your child could have a maxed out credit card, unpaid bills and a huge mortgage for beachfront property across the country. You might not discover the illegal purchases until your child opens a bank account, applies for a job, tries to get a driver’s license or enters college. At that point, you are left with the time-consuming dilemma of cleaning up someone else’s fraudulent mess. If only clearing up a credit report was as easy as cleaning up after your kids.

Do the gaping holes in our current credit system and the audacity of criminals leave you enraged? They should. It is imperative that you use your anger as fuel to protect and prepare your children’s future before it is too late. In Part II of this series, we will talk about the specific steps to take in order to protect your child from identity theft.

John Sileo lost almost a half-million dollars, his business and his reputation to identity theft. Since then, he’s become America’s leading keynote speaker on identity theft, social media exposure and weapons of manipulation. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and Homeland Security. To learn more, visit ThinkLikeASpy.com.

 

Child Identity Theft (Part II)

If you missed the first part of this series, please visit Child Identity Theft  (Part I).

Child Identity theft is the fastest growing sector of the identity theft “industry,” and the numbers are staggering. Although it’s difficult to estimate exactly how many children lose their identities since the crime can go undetected for years, the FTC states that 5% of identity theft cases target children, which translates into 500,000 kidnapped child identities per year, and growing. The Carnegie Mellon CyLab Report states that in 54% of the cases, the child was under the age of 14.

The identity thief is not always a stranger. In many cases, it’s a relative with bad credit who takes advantage of a child’s pristine credit. Conveniently, these family members generally have access to the information necessary to maximize the fraud with little attention. This seems absurd, but imagine a parent who is strapped for cash, has a bad credit score and needs to buy groceries. In this case, short-term thinking blinds the relative or friend to long-term consequences. In other instances, the child’s future is not taken into consideration at all.

Frankly, it doesn’t take much to get the crime underway; all a criminal needs is the child’s name and Social Security number. These pieces of personal information are exposed in a variety of ways:

  • When registering for daycare, schools and recreational sports
  • On medical, dental and hospital records
  • When joining organizations like the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, etc.
  • When the above information is permanently stored and accessed by volunteers or employees
  • When one of the above organizations is breached by a hacker or malicious software
  • When an adult befriends your child on a social networking site (MySpace, Facebook) and eventually socially engineers private information out of them

The Three Basic Types of Child Identity Theft

  1. Financial identity theft occurs when the name and Social Security number is used to establish new lines of credit.
  2. Criminal identity theft happens when the criminal uses the child’s identity to obtain a driver’s license or substitutes the child’s identity if caught in a criminal act.
  3. Identity cloning entails using a child’s identity (via information collection or a black market ‘purchase’ of personal information) for medical, financial, criminal and governmental purposes. The most common form of cloned identity theft is committed on behalf of undocumented workers looking for an identity that will keep them working in this country.

For parents, cleaning up the disaster of identity theft for their children is costly and incredibly time consuming. Getting a new Social Security number is almost impossible, and rarely the best option.

Taking steps right now to protect your child from this horrible crime is one of the greatest investments you will ever make in their financial and emotional future.

Protecting Your Children

Acting now on behalf of your child will protect them from consequences common to child victims:

  • Starting adulthood with a credit rating low enough to scare away the hungriest of loan sharks
  • Being denied a first loan, credit card or apartment rental because of a crime committed 10-15 years earlier (the passage of time makes this crime very hard to clear up)
  • Being denied access to college or a new job
  • Having a warrant out for her arrest for crimes that she didn’t commit

In the same way that you can’t protect your children from every bruise and scrape, you can’t entirely remove the risk of identity theft. You can, however, prevent or soften the fall if it does happen. Take these steps first:

  1. Watch for mail in your child’s name. This is a potential sign that credit has been established using their identity. The most common types of mail that signal identity theft are financial (pre-approved credit cards, etc.).
  2. Consider ordering a free credit report for your child. If you suspect foul play, write to the three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to see if your child has a credit profile (no profile, no chance that it is being used illegally). If they do have an active credit profile, you will need to resolve this with the specific credit bureau. Please note that requesting your child’s credit report repeatedly can actually establish a credit profile in their name. For a more convenient option, use an identity monitoring service for you and your family that alerts you when credit is established in any of your names.
  3. Stop giving out your child’s personal information. Until you are confident that it is absolutely necessary to receive the services desired, withhold their personal information. More than 80% of organizations that ask for your child’s Social Security number don’t actually need it to establish services. If you must give it, ask them how they will use it, how long they will keep it and how it will be protected while they have it.
  4. Protect your child’s identity documents. Birth certificates, passports, bank account information, wills and trusts involving children should all be locked securely in a fire-safe or bank’s safety deposit box. Physical document theft is one of the most prevalent ways kid’s identities are stolen.
  5. If you find evidence of fraudulent activity, contact the police, the source of the fraud and all three credit bureaus. Filing a police report helps to establish your child’s innocence in an official way.Have the credit bureaus FREEZE your child’s credit for maximum protection. Keep detailed records of all correspondence between yourself, the police, the merchant and the credit bureaus. It will come in handy should you ever find yourself in court, as I did.
  6. Educate your children on the importance of protecting their personal information. Teach them about the value of their personal information: their name, address, phone numbers, email address, Social Security Number and any passwords and PIN numbers. Reinforce that they own their private information and that it should not be shared with friends, over the internet or with anyone whom they don’t know or trust.Education is absolutely the best financial gift you will ever give to them.

In the case of child identity theft, an ounce of prevention is worth a lifetime of financial security. Don’t let the center of your universe become just another statistic. Because you love and protect your children as much as I do, start this process immediately.

John Sileo lost almost a half-million dollars, his business and his reputation to identity theft. Since then, he’s become America’s leading keynote speaker on identity theft, social media exposure and weapons of manipulation. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and Homeland Security. To learn more, visit ThinkLikeASpy.com.

College Students Destroy Financial Future with Poor Choices

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College is the perfect period of life to begin sound financial practices including protecting privacy. Not only are college students vulnerable, but they are impressionable and well positioned to learn strong habits that will last them a lifetime. As students launch into independence, we, as parents, hope to give them the best tools possible to insure a bright future. One of the most vital tools is to establish healthy habits that will guard their financial and personal identities for the rest of their lives. People ages 18 -24 are the least able to spot identity theft according to the BBB. That age group needed more than four months to realize someone had damaged their credit history or used their identity. By taking a few precautions, a young adult can avoid the crushing job of trying to recover from having given away the keys to their financial future, which is especially overwhelming while navigating life away from home for the first time.

Identity thieves don’t care a whit if the student has a dime – they just want a clean financial record in order to commit crimes using their credit and future buying power. Unfortunately, thieves are often someone the student trusts: a friend, dorm mate, co-worker, or someone who poses as a sanctioned person on campus.  Identity thieves may use personal information to open credit card accounts, access financial accounts, rent an apartment or even commit larger cases of fraud, implicating the student. Here are some tips to get you and your student started down the road to protecting their financial future:

  • Have all sensitive mail sent to parents’ homes only. School mailboxes are not secure and are easily accessed in a dorm or apartment.
  • Store Social Security cards, passports, bank statements, credit card statements and other important documents in a small fire safe in their dorm.
  • As soon as you are done with any documents that have financial information (financial account statements, medical bills,  insurance forms, charge receipts, university tuition payments), shred the documents rather than putting them in the trash in order to foil dumpster divers.
  • Set up account alerts with your credit card companies and banks to notify you via email whenever a transaction occurs. Because it is fresh in your mind, it takes only a few seconds to verify the transaction unlike weeks later when you try to recall each transaction while paying your bill or reconciling your bank statement.
  • Always check credit card bills and bank statements and question unknown purchases. The sooner you catch a breach, the less likely you’ll have complicated financial ramifications.
  • Limit the applications you load on your smartphone or tablet. Many of these apps siphon data off of your device back to unwanted companies and individuals.
  • Never loan a credit or debit card to anyone, even your best friend. Don’t co-sign a loan for a friend as you will be responsible for missed payments.
  • Date of birth is one of the key pieces of information that many companies use to confirm identity. Refrain from sharing your correct date of birth on Facebook or any place online. Friends who you want to know your birthday should learn that from you personally. Even putting only the month and day is risky as it’s pretty easy to ascertain the year based on your profile.
  • Use long passwords with a mix of letters, numbers and characters (e.g., &63DB4x%gX); According to Gibson Research, a password that is 10 characters is vastly harder to crack than one containing nine characters. If you need help remembering them, use a password protection program.
  • Update antivirus and spyware software on personal computers. Identity thieves rely on special programs, transferred to personal laptops and computers from numerous websites, to duplicate people’s passwords, user ID’s and bank account information.
  • Check credit reports for free three times a year at www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Request a report from a different credit union every four months and you’ve got the year covered.
  • Get off mailing lists for pre-approved credit offers, which are a goldmine for identity thieves. To opt out of financial junk mail, call 888-5-OPTOUT or visit www.OptOutPreScreen.com to remove your name from national lists. Be prepared to provide your Social Security number (in this case, that is a risk worth taking).
  • Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails or postings on social media. In addition to installing malware on your computer, many of them are phishing schemes that trick you into entering your Social Security number, user name or account passwords.
  • Never give out financial or account information to unsolicited callers, even if they say they are from your bank (you are not in control of the call when it’s incoming).
  • Do not share phone numbers or list your residence hall names and/or floor number designations online – or anyplace. Identity thieves frequently show up on campus pretending to represent a legitimate company, possibly using the school’s logo or colors on the credit card. Once the scammers get students’ personal information, they can then use it themselves or sell it for a profit.

Heartily impress upon your students (and yourself!) to guard identity with a vengeance and save untold time and money attempting recovery. Doing so might be the most profitable education they receive.

Tyler Clementi Doesn't Care About Cyber-Bullying Policies

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Guest Blogger: Kathleen Keelan, Prevention Consultants, LLC

Tyler ClementiI have a hard time telling the parents of a cyber-bullied student that their school “has a policy.”  I have a hard time explaining to a child that even though they feel like their whole existence is being shattered every day, all day and all night, that their school district really does care about them.    It’s hard to explain to a cyber-bullied student and their parents that the school truly cares that they feel safe.

This I know for sure: the policy is only as good as the people who enforce it.

School officials are scrambling right now due to the “epidemic” of suicides from cyber bullying.  Law enforcement is scrambling right now to define their role in this growing phenomenon.  The National Crime Prevention Council is happy that physical bullying amongst children has declined.  However, the rate of cyber bullying is increasing at an alarming rate.  Right now the NCPS found that among teenagers, more than 43% are victims of cyber bullying.

Do you think that 50% of the kids care about a national law against cyber bullying?  I stood in front of a group of parents last night and tried to explain to them that although there is no program to teach about cyber bullying prevention in their school, there is a policy.  This I know for sure: the policy is only as good as the people who enforce it.  As one mom of a teen who was ruthlessly cyber bullied screamed at the top of her lungs at a school board meeting, “Don’t wave that cyber bullying policy in my face and tell me that is what you are doing to help my son.”

Ellen DeGeneres tearfully proclaimed on her now famous video October 3, 2010 that “Things will get better, and you should be alive to see it.”  We have got to stop hiding behind policies and help assure kids we care that they are alive to see the policies actually help those who are being cyber bullied.

Sileo: Kathleen Keelan is a dear friend of mine and an expert in this subject matter. Kathleen’s point that policy does not automatically guarantee action and even more importantly, that policy is never a replacement for action is one that I deal with every day in the corporate world. Having a policy isn’t good enough. You have to build a culture around that policy that weaves a belief system of action into the very fabric of the organization. Whether we are trying to protect data, our employees or our children, a policy without follow through is but an empty set of words. If you need help with cyber bullying in your school, please contact her on 303-521-5427 or learn more about Prevention Consultants, LLC at their website.