10 Tips on Discussing a Screwed Up World with Kids

Do you have children? How do you talk to them when something like a mass shooting happens? What about a robbery in your neighborhood? Do you talk about nuclear weapons? If you are like most parents, you don’t know where to start. Here’s 10 tips that you can use to talk to your kids about our screwed up world:

Young Kids – Ages 2 to 6

Parents Are in Charge – We control the “information flow” which means we can restrict what information they have access to. No mobile phones, no tablets, no TV news or conversations in the house or others homes on topics to intense for young kids. We ask questions before we send them to others homes and tell them our requirements.

Don’t Expose Them – Don’t watch adult-themed shows until they are in bed.

Don’t Bring it Up – It’s also recommended that you don’t even bring it up…unless, for some reason, they bring it up to you. If you do have to talk to them about it, keep it simple.

Tell Them You are Safe – If you do have to address a situation like this, make sure that you tell your kids that they are safe. Give them a hug and assure them.

Older Children – Age 7 to 12

Parents Are in Charge – We control the “information flow”. Don’t give me a BS excuse “I already gave my 11 year old a mobile phone and he has a TV in his bedroom. Stop the madness and start parenting.

Talk to Them if They Talk to You – For older kids, you should talk to them about these incidents, but only if they know about the event. Tell them that you would love to talk about it with them.

Listen – Talking it out is only one part of this. You also have to be a good listener. Ask them questions, too, such as what they heard, how they know about the incident, and how they feel about it.

Be Honest – When dealing with tweens, you should make sure that the truth comes from you, not from their friends nor the television or internet. You don’t have to go into great detail, and you should explain it in a way they will understand, i.e. explaining that the mass shooter/terrorist/predator etc likely is mentally ill.

Discuss the Media – It’s likely that kids this age will get information from the media, but make sure they know that the media likes to sensationalize things to get people’s attention.

Teenagers

Assume They Know – Teens likely know that an event has happened, but don’t assume that they have the whole story. They often get their news from friends or social media, and that information is often incomplete.

Engage Them in Conversation – Talking it out can help teens come to terms with these incidents.  

Give Them Hope – Finally, give your teenager hope that things will be alright. A lot of teens are focused on the dark side of things, so make sure to bring in a bright light.

No matter their age, engage their schools administration. Most schools have systems in place to deal with and discuss tragic events based on the age and grades of the students. Often, parents will feel better that their schools have a good handle on these discussions. But it’s also up to the parents to put it out there, to let the schools know what the parents expect.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

How to Use your Mobile as a Child Locator

How many times have you read, or at least caught a headline, of the latest high profile missing child case? How many stories have we heard about the kid who got lost on a hike? His body was found several miles from where he’d been last seen, concluding a several-day search.

5WWhat if he had had an iPhone on his person at the time he wandered off in the middle of some vast woods? Sure he could call, but then what? Android and iPhones have a “find my phone” feature that a parent can track down a lost child with—provided that this feature is enabled.

  • At android.com/devicemanager log onto the Android Device Manager page. The parent must also know the password and name for the Google account that is associated with this tracking feature.
  • You’ll see Android hardware’s location, which is stored in the phone attached to the lost child, on a map.
  • Obviously, you must have your own mobile device on you to locate.
  • This feature works for older kids too, such as your young teen daughter on her first date. She’s 20 minutes past her curfew and she’s not answering her mobile. Time to locate her.
  • You can set up a restricted profile that blocks the teen’s access to the “settings” application, or, you can use a parental control app.
  • There are locator apps also compatible with the iOS phone too.

Do you have an elderly relative who’s not all there upstairs and prone to wandering off? Most phones are compatible with affordable ($6 to $15 a month) applications that can give you the location of your family member. Family locator apps are offered by T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless.

Locator apps also come with other features, not just the locator aspect. Some offer 911 and emergency features. This would be great for your elderly grandmother who forgets things or gets lost easily.

Robert Siciliano CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com, personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Parents: do You know your Teen’s Social Media Platforms?

With all the apps out there that individualize communication preferences among teens, such as limiting “sharing,” parents should still hold their breath. Face it, parents: times have changed. It’s your duty to discuss these applications with your kids. And parents should also familiarize themselves with the so-called temporary apps.14D

  • Temporary messages do not vanish forever.
  • Are anonymous applications really anonymous?
  • How temporary is “temporary”?

Kik Messenger

  • Users can stay anonymous and conduct all sorts of communication.
  • Has perks, like seeing if someone read your message.
  • Has drawbacks, such as accidentally sending content to more people than the user intended.
  • Easy to end up communicating with anonymous strangers.
  • Involves ads disguised as communication.

Ask.fm

  • Kids anonymously ask questions, e.g., “How do I conceal my eating disorder from my parents?” This question is benign compared to others on the site, though many users are innocent teens just hanging out.
  • This kind of site, though, promotes cyberbullying.

Whisper

  • Intended for adults, this app is where you post what’s eating you.
  • Some posts are uplifting and inspirational, while others are examples of human depravity.
  • Replete with references to drugs, liquor and lewd behavior—mixed in with the innocent, often humorous content.

Yik Yak

  • For users wanting to exchange texts and images to nearby users—hence having a unique appeal to teens.
  • And it’s anonymous. Users have made anonymous threats of violence via Yik Yak.
  • Due to the bond of communicating with local users and the anonymity, this medium is steeped in nasty communication.
  • Threats of violence will grab the attention of law enforcement who can turn “anonymous” into “identified.”

Omegle

  • This anonymous chat forum is full of really bad language, sexual content, violence, etc.
  • The app’s objective is to pair teens up with strangers (creepy!).
  • Yes, assume that many users are adult men—and you know why.
  • Primarily for sexual chat and not for teens, but teens use it.

Line

  • Texting, sending videos, games, group chats and lots of other teeny features like thousands of emoticons.
  • The Hidden Chat feature allows users to set a self-destruct time of two seconds to a week for their messages.
  • For the most part it’s an innocent teen hub, but can snare teens into paying for some of the features.

Burn Note

  • Text messages are deleted after a set time period.
  • Texts appear one word at a time.
  • Burn Note can promote cyberbullying—for obvious reasons.

Snapchat

  • Users put a time limit on imagery content before it’s erased. So you can imagine what some of the imagery might be.
  • And images aren’t truly deleted, e.g., Snapsaved (unrelated to Snapchat) can dig up any Snapchatted image, or, the recipient can screenshot that nude image of your teen daughter—immortalizing it.

REPEAT: Face it, parents: times have changed. It’s your duty to discuss these applications with your kids. And parents should also familiarize themselves with the so-called temporary apps.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

Prevent Child Identity Theft

Here’s one for the know-it-alls: Kids are 35 percent more likely to become victims of identity theft than are adults. Betcha didn’t know that! This startling news comes from a 2015 Javelin Strategy & Release study.

2DNeedless to say, the bulk of parents aren’t on top of this problem, unaware that thieves go after children’s SSNs like two-year-olds grabbing at candy. Thieves know that kids (and their parents) don’t monitor their credit reports. Thieves know that they can get away with their crime all throughout the victim’s childhood until they start applying for college, credit cards, etc., at age 18 or so. That’s a long time to get away with a crime.

Let’s talk about how to prevent child identity theft.

ID Theft Protection

  • Sign on with an ID theft protection company; many such companies protect the entire family including kids.
  • Get an ID theft protection service. This is not the same as antivirus software. For example, ID theft protection services will monitor your credit report. It will also alert you when an account is opened in your name.

Credit Freeze

  • Put a freeze on your kids’ credit reports; 19 states allow this for the three main credit reporting agencies. Equifax allows a freeze no matter what state you live in.
  • A frozen credit will prevent a crook from opening lines of credit in your child’s name.

Who needs your child’s Social Security number?

  • Put your children’s sensitive documents (birth certificate, SSN card, etc.) in a lockable safe and/or keep it hidden.
  • THINK, before you hand out your child’s SSN. Just because it’s requested doesn’t mean you must blindly give it up. Ask yourself: Why on earth do they need my child’s Social Security number? The gruff coach of your child’s new soccer team may be requesting the number. The child beauty pageant director may be asking for it. Don’t be intimidated.
  • Come on, really. WHY would a sports team, karate tournament entry form or any other child-centered activity need this information?
  • Minimize putting your child’s name and address “out there.” Even if you decide to get a magazine subscription for your tween, put your name on the subscription.
  • Meet with your child’s principal to keep your child’s information from getting out. Schools often share personal information of students with third parties.
  • It’s not cute that your five-year-old can rattle off her Social Security number. Kids don’t need to know this number. They need to know your phone number, how to dial 9-1-1 and their home address. But not their SSN. Geez, if they know their SSN, you just never know when they might leak it out to the wrong ears. When kids are in high school, they may need it, but still, be very cautious about when you decide it’s time to give them this information.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention

How to freeze your Child’s Credit

Identity thieves are after children’s Social Security numbers. With this number, a thief can do so many things like open a credit card account and rent an apartment. Kids’ SSNs have great appeal to crooks because:

  • A child’s record is usually very clean.
  • This means fertile opportunities for new credit lines.
  • Kids usually don’t check their credit reports and thus the fraud can go undetected for years.

3DParents should consider putting a freeze on their kids’ credit. Simply getting the credit monitored will not prevent thieves from opening accounts using the child’s SSN. A freeze does literally that: blocks a fraudster from doing anything.

Experian

  • Will not create a file for a child unless required by state law, unless they are victimized.
  • However, will give a free copy of an existing file of a child to the parent and will freeze it upon request.
  • There may be a very small fee unless the parent provides proof that the minor’s identity was stolen.

Equifax

  • Their freeze is free and doesn’t answer to any state requirements.
  • The child need not already be a victim of ID theft to get the freeze.

Trans Union

  • Their site allows parents to check for a credit file of their kids.
  • Freezes are permitted only in states that allow this. Fees may apply.

 

Innovis (another credit reporting agency)

  • Parents can place a freeze no matter what their state says.

Not all the states provide protection for minors’ credit. Find out what your state’s requirements are, as some, for instance, provide only a flag on the Social Security number. Other states have protection going up only to age 16.

Signs that someone is using your child’s SSN:

  • You receive an IRS notice claiming your child didn’t pay income taxes.
  • You get an IRS notice informing you that another tax return used your child’s SSN.
  • You receive collection notices for things you didn’t purchase.

Rejection of government benefits because the benefits are going to another account with your child’s SSN.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention.

Sorry, stop posing Kids’ Photos online

Frankly, naked babies shouldn’t be a big deal. If you don’t have naked baby pictures of your kids in the kitchen sink then you aren’t human. BUT….the world has changed. If you compare posting your children’s photos online with whipping out a wallet photo of your toddler daughter in the bathtub to your dinner party guests, I will have a bird.

This is because people just love to post images of their partially or completely naked toddlers and preschoolers online: in bathtubs, those inner tube swimming pools, on beaches or wherever.

Awww, ain’t they purty little young’uns! Well, here’re the problems:

  • One particular image snatches the attention of a roaming pedophile, and he becomes hell-bent on getting his hands on that child—who’s yours.
  • Years after the image goes up, your child is suddenly being ridiculed in school over it.
  • Your child, when older, feels humiliated over the scads of revealing or even gross images (fingers shiny from a thick coat of saliva because they’re halfway in the toddler’s mouth; food smeared all over the mouth; slimy drool hanging from the mouth—yes some parents think this is adorable).

It’s not only not safe to become a post-a-holic of your child’s images, but it’s not smart. Isn’t the whipping out of the print photo at the dinner party or at the workplace break room enough? Must the images go online, where they’ll stay forever, for the entire planet to see?

Many parents don’t bother with Facebook’s privacy settings. And why? Hell if I know. These same parents would never run up to every single person at the grocery store and shove in their face the latest photo of little Mikey in the bathtub. So why share it with the whole world including Mikey’s future classmates?

Would you ever approach the seedy looking man on the street corner and show him a photo of half-naked little Maddelynn on the beach? I didn’t think so. Yet pedophiles really DO peruse Facebook for revealing images, and depending on what else you have up there including the image’s GPS data, the perv can get your home address.

  • Learn Facebook’s privacy settings and set them at their highest.
  • Find out whom your “sharing” images with. Do all of these people meet your approval? Do you know whom they’re sharing them with?
  • It’s not a crime to build old-fashioned photo albums—stored safely on a living room shelf that only visitors to your house can view.

When in doubt, don’t post it. Once it’s up, it’s there forever.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention.

Do you know what your Kids are doing online?

Your child is active online. Did it ever occur to you that he or she uses a fake name so that they can’t be identified by you? Chances are, you, the parent, also uses a pseudonym. It’s very common.

12DCyberspace is full of obvious pseudonyms, but a phony name can also be a regular name that many people have. Your child will be lost in a sea of David Johnsons or Amanda Millers.

Intel Security did a study and found that 40 percent of kids use aliases or alternate accounts. Intel Security also found:

  • Many kids fessed up to cyberbullying, including making threats.
  • Far fewer parents in the survey, however, believed their kids were capable of cyberbullying.
  • Over 25 percent of the kids admitted they’d meet someone in person after first meeting them online.

Wayne State also conducted a study:

  • Over 50 percent of juvenile respondents admitted to tracking or stalking a romance partner or harassing/bullying them.

Parents really need to monitor their kids’ cyber lives. However, there are obstacles facing parents such as being intimidated by technology and feeling awkward requesting their kids’ passwords.

However, parental involvement, such as knowing the passwords, correlates to lower incidents of cyberbullying. So contrary to myth, parents are not overstepping boundaries by monitoring their kids’ online habits—within reason, of course.

But parents need to do more than just cyber-hover. Kids need to learn from the inside out how to cyber-behave in a smart, safe way. They need to learn how to think for themselves and understand how predators prey on kids. If they’re old enough to use social media, they’re old enough to be told all the dirt on what kinds of creeps are out there.

Parents must ask themselves, “Is my child’s life so empty that they can easily be lured by an online predator to meet him in a secluded place?” Or how about, “Why is my kid obsessed with adding friends? He already has over 3,000 and that’s not enough.”

Computers and social media, in and of themselves, do not turn kids wayward, into bullies or into victims. Predisposing family dynamics are already present, and they simply manifest themselves online. For example, a teenager who spends six hours a day creating fake Facebook accounts, stealing photos off of blogs, then adding these phony accounts as friends to her actual Facebook account, has pre-existing psychological issues.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

Child Identity Theft

Child identity theft is a growing problem. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that there are 500,000 new victims every year. The culprits are often parents or others who have direct access to the child’s Social Security number. (In my own experience, I’ve had to give out my children’s Social Security numbers to hospitals, insurers, and schools more than I can count.) When irresponsible parents apply for credit in their children’s names due to existing financial hardships, the soiling of their credit begins.

Jason Truxel was denied a mortgage because of bad credit. He had no idea that his credit scores were low, so he pulled his credit reports. He discovered a tremendous amount of debt, and accounts he had never opened. One such account showed that a credit card had been opened in his name when he was 13 years old. Jason found out the hard way that he was a victim of child identity theft. When Jason was a child, his father was convicted of credit card fraud.

You may be saying, “Of course I would never steal my own child’s identity,” but sometimes the custodial parent discovers that his or her ex committed identity theft when notices from bill collectors begin to arrive.

If you ever determine that your child’s identity has been stolen, you should immediately file a report with a local police department. A police report is often the first step to have the unauthorized accounts removed from the child’s credit report.

Creditors often fail to verify the applicant’s age and simply accept a credit application at face value. Children rarely discover that they are victims of identity theft until they are adults, when they are denied a student loan or even a job, if their potential employer runs a credit check and deems the applicant irresponsible based on poor credit history.

Some would say, “Protect your child’s Social Security number,” which is okay advice, but not practical and not really possible. The best solution is to invest in identity theft protection.

To ensure peace of mind and protect your child’s most valuable asset, his or her identity, subscribe to an identity protection service, such as McAfee Identity Protection, which offers proactive identity surveillance, lost wallet protection, and alerts when suspicious activity is detected on your accounts. For additional tips, please visit http://www.counteridentitytheft.com

Robert Siciliano is a McAfee consultant and identity theft expert. See him discuss child identity theft on NBC Boston. (Disclosures)

Child Identity Theft Protection

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

In a blog I guest contribute to called “NextAdvisor” they offer the following advice on child identity theft protection:

The following post in our Reader Question series is an actual user submitted question.

Q: I found out that someone used my grandson’s Social Security number to get phone service. How can I stop this? He’s only 11 years old.

A: If someone has used or is using a child’s Social Security number to secure a service, the child is a victim of identity theft. You should file a report with a local police department immediately. Having a police report will make it easier to have the fraudulent item or items removed from the child’s credit report. You should also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

You should also call the phone company to inform them that the service has been fraudulently obtained using a minor’s Social Security number. If you are your grandson’s legal guardian, you can request a copy of his credit report from all three credit bureaus, and ask that fraudulent items be removed and that his credit report be frozen until he turns 18. If you are not your grandson’s legal guardian, one of his parents will need to make this request.

When a parent or legal guardian contacts a credit bureau on their child’s behalf, they need to provide the child’s complete name, address, and date of birth, and copies of the child’s birth certificate and Social Security number. The parent or guardian must also provide a copy of their own drivers license or other government-issued proof of identity, including their current address, and a utility bill containing the current address.

Here is the contact information for the three credit bureaus:

Experian
(888)397-3742
http://www.experian.com

Experian
PO Box 9532
Allen , TX 75013

Equifax
(800) 658-1111
http://www.equifax.com

Equifax
P.O. Box 105069
Atlanta , GA 30348

TransUnion
(800) 916-8800
http://www.transunion.com

TransUnion
PO Box 6790
Fullerton , CA 92834”

And my advice. For your own good, protect your identity. Get a credit freeze. Go to ConsumersUnion.org and follow the steps for your particular state. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases, it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name. This makes your Social Security number useless to a potential identity thief.

Invest in Intelius identity theft protection and prevention. Not all forms of identity theft protection can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk. (Disclosures)

Robert Siciliano identity theft speaker discussing child identity theft on NBC Boston


Child Identity Theft Victims

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Jason Truxel was denied a mortgage because of bad credit. He had no idea that his credit scores were low, so he pulled his credit reports. He discovered a tremendous amount of debt, and accounts he had never opened. One such account showed that a credit card had been opened in his name when he was 13 years old. Jason found out the hard way that he was a victim of child identity theft. When Jason was a child, his father was convicted of credit card fraud. So he went to his father’s house and found a stack of credit cards with his name on them in a dresser drawer. When confronted, Jason’s dad said that Jason would never be able to prove anything. That’s a bad dad, if I’ve ever heard of one.

Diamond Daye is 11 years old. He’s going through the same problem. Except his mother is the identity thief. She’s 31, and owes thousands in rent and cell phone and cable bills.

Child identity theft is a growing problem. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that there are 500,000 new victims every year. The culprits are often parents, since they have direct access to their kids’ personal information. Irresponsible parents who have screwed up their own credit apply for credit in their childrens’ names, once they discover how easy it is. All a parent needs is a child’s Social Security number, and the fun begins. Creditors often fail to verify the applicant’s age, and simply accepts the application. Children rarely discover that they are victims of identity theft until they are adults, and are denied credit or employment because of their negative credit history. Sometimes the custodial parent discovers that his or her ex committed identity theft when the bill collector notices begin to arrive.

There’s not much a person can do to prevent child identity theft, other than regularly requesting fraud alerts and ensuring the credit hasn’t been issued under your child’s name.

What you should do to protect yourself and your children:

Protecting yourself from new account fraud requires a credit freeze, or setting up your own fraud alerts and in your childs’ name too. This provides an extra layer of protection. In most cases it prevents the opening of new credit.

Consider making an investment in Intelius Identity Theft Protection and Prevention. Because when all else fails you’ll have someone watching your back. Includes a Free Credit Report, SSN monitoring, Credit & Debit Card monitoring, Bank Account monitoring, Email fraud alerts, Public Records Monitoring, Customizable “Watch List”, $25,000 in ID theft insurance, Junk Mail OptOut and Credit Card Offer OptOut.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing availability of Social Security numbers on Fox News