“Sharing” Now Can Lead to Identity Theft

There are many reasons to think twice before posting photos and anecdotes about our kids online – they might get embarrassed later, we create a digital life they can’t control, it’s an invasion of privacy, etc. But here’s another reason to limit what we share: we can help criminals steal their identity in the future.

Barclays, a London-based investment bank, estimates that by 2030, “swaps” will account for two-thirds of the identity fraud cases faced by young people. Part of the problem,according to the BBC , is that parents may not realize how much data they are reproducing to scammers through seemingly innocent social media posts.

The Bank advises that parents may disclose names, ages, and dates of birth from birthdays, home addresses, birthplaces, mother’s maiden name, schools, pet names, sports teams they support, and photographs.

Barclays warns that such data, which will still be available as young adults become adults, could be used for fraudulent loans, credit card transactions or online shopping scams.

In a video from the New York Times, three young men sat down with their mothers to talk about the over-sharing of their photos and personal information online. Eighteen-year-old Elmer Gomez, in particular, was concerned about the information his mom posted on Facebook, including his full name and address. When his mom defended the ability to share his photos and information, saying it is confidential and visible only to her friends and family, he replies, “All it takes is one person and one hack and all your privacy.”

In addition to concerns about identity theft, The Times notes that “parents also run the risk of unwittingly exposing their children to profiling, hacking, facial recognition, pedophilia and other threats to their children’s privacy and safety.”

Does this mean you should stop sharing everything about your kids on social media? This is probably unrealistic for most parents. However, Forbes reports that Stacey Steinberg of Levin College of Law at the University of Florida said that parents should talk to their children early and often about what they post online:

Steinberg is not trying to convince parents to remain completely silent on the radio about their families. Instead, she invites parents to think more about what they are posting, eliminate unnecessary layers of information such as geotagging, and talk to their children as soon as they can find out what is being published about them on the Internet.

A good rule of thumb before posting might be to pause and ask yourself: If this image or this information fell into the wrong hands, what could it mean for my child’s safety and privacy? And then publish – or not publish – accordingly.


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