5th of Feb a Safer Internet Day, parents and carers need to know their kids may be risking their identity and future credit rating by posting volumes of personal information to open forums and other sites, a consumer advocate for accurate credit reporting warns.
“The harsh reality is if you’re a young person in Australia today you are not immune to identity fraud. Even though you are not yet credit active the personal information you make public today could be used against you in the future,” CEO of MyCRA Credit Repair, Graham Doessel says.
‘Cybersmart’ hosts Safer Internet Day today, with this year’s theme being ‘Connect with Respect’, encouraging people to think about their ‘Online Rights and Responsibilities’.
More than 22,000 students are participating today in Cybersmart’s online safety presentations, 1500 kids are playing Cybersmart Challenge games and Cybersmart is also broadcasting live and online all over the world from 5pm-8pm tonight.
The website educates young people, their teachers and carers about how to stay safe and stay smart online, touching on issues like cyber-bullying, online predators, and identity theft with an emphasis on understanding the potential consequences of online behaviour.
Mr Doessel says identity theft is still a risk for under 18’s, and many young people and their parents don’t know the dangers of having a public ‘profile’ on sites like Facebook and Twitter.
“A public profile is a big risk for anyone at any age. With the volume of personal information contained there, fraudsters can use that information to create an identity in your name, and even take out credit,” he says.
In late 2011, Identity expert Ben McQuillan of the Australian Federal Police warned people about the new trend of ‘warehousing’ which involves storing data for a time, making it harder for a victim or bank to trace where and when the data was stolen.
”If people know your full name, your date of birth, where you went to school and other lifestyle issues, and they were to warehouse that data, there is a prospect that could then be used to take out loans or credit cards or to create a bank account that could then be used to launder money,” McQuillan told the Sydney Morning Herald.
This warning was echoed by Queensland Fraud Squad’s Superintendant Brian Hay, who warned that criminals were targeting the personal information of our young Facebook users.
Supt Hay said criminals had been known to be storing the personal information of children around the world in databases to be used when they turn 18 and are able to take out credit.
“We know that the crooks have been data warehousing identity information, we know that they’ve been building search engines to profile and build identities,” he told Channel 7’s Sunrise program in October 2011.
“We need to tell our children if you surrender your soul, if you surrender your identity to the internet it could come back to bite you in a very savage way years down the track,” he said.
Mr Doessel says identity theft is not only about the initial loss of monies, but if the fraud amounts to credit accounts in the young victim’s name going undetected and unpaid past 60 days, creditors will issue defaults.
“It need not be major fraud to have a detrimental effect. Credit file defaults for as little as $100 can stop someone from being able to obtain credit for 5 years. So any damage, however small to someone’s credit file can be extremely significant,” he says.
He says the onus is on the victim to prove to creditors they didn’t initiate the credit.
“The fact that the perpetrator is long gone and the actual act of identity theft happened years earlier will only add to the difficulty for the young person in recovering their good name,” he says.
Experts recommend parents and young people continue to update their skills on how to be cyber-smart.
1. Keep privacy settings private. Your profile on sites like Facebook should be kept Private, and it’s a good idea to check your settings from time to time to make sure it stays that way. This makes it harder for crooks to find your personal information.
2. Use passwords. Use strong passwords online, regularly changing them. You should also do the same for your smartphone. Stay one step ahead of hackers.
3. What you post may be permanent. Every piece of information you post – no matter how secure you think it may be – may show up again one day.
4. Your personal information should be guarded at all times. Personal information is the gateway to identity theft. How secure is the site you are using? Think – if it’s not necessary – do you really need to give it out or post it?
5. Careful who you ‘friend’. Crooks can scan the internet requesting ‘friendships’ on sites like Facebook – but they may not be after friendship but your personal information. If you don’t know the person who is sending you the friend request, check their profile – do they seem like a real person? Ask -why do they want to be my friend? If you’re unsure, ignore the request.