Are your kids are shopping online this festive season? If so, are they connecting to unsecure Wi-Fi networks? Are they familiar with the retailer who's offering that great deal?
Then consider this scenario: Do your kids know what to do if they receive an email from a group they're unfamiliar with seeking a charitable donation - and perhaps trying to take advantage of a child's goodwill?
And if they're shopping the old-fashioned way, mixing with bustling, hurried crowds at the mall, are they keeping a tight grip on their wallet, purse or cell phone filled with their personal information?
The holiday shopping season is prime time for scam artists. Are your children cyber-secure?
According to the US National Retail Federation, shoppers are expected to spend a record $721 billion this holiday season. And with numbers like that, scammers and identity thieves are in on the action.
In 2017, US consumers lost nearly $17 billion to fraudsters, according to a Javelin Strategy and Research report. There were 1.3 million victims, an 8 per cent increase over the previous year, Javelin reported.
The improvements in credit and debit card secure payment technology at checkout stands have prompted more fraudsters to switch to online channels, according to Generali Global Assistance, a technology security services firm.
Several major hacks have occurred recently and they won't be the last to draw headlines in the waning days of the shopping season.
While there's no fresh data regarding children's increased risk of being victimised by scammers, it's "safe to say the trends certainly paint this picture," a Generali spokesman said.
"Particularly at a time when millions of children are receiving new gaming consoles, smart devices and other electronics, their gateways to identity theft are undoubtedly increased," the spokesman said. "Many children are in a rush to get these devices set up as quickly as possible on Christmas morning and are likely willing to forego any security measures along the way."
As I stated before, children are perfect targets for identity thieves, partly because they have a clean slate of credit, which makes opening new credit accounts fairly easy for thieves. And this identity theft can go undetected for years.
That's why the holiday season is a great time for parents to keep a close eye on their kids' online shopping habits and talk to them about staying safe online and at the checkout counter.
Here are some suggestions from Generali and other experts.
- Start with the basics. Where age appropriate, make sure your children know the importance of keeping personal information - names, addresses, phone numbers - private when using social networking sites, gaming sites and other online activity.
- Ensure your child uses strong and complex passwords and doesn't share them with friends? In addition, keep your child's anti-virus software updated.
- Keep your child in the know about phishing scams and other unsolicited emails that ask for personal information.
- If your child is using your credit card for gaming purchases, check your statement online regularly.
- Make sure kids aren't buying apps from a third-party provider. Google Play and Apple's app store have more stringent vetting and validation criteria, according to Generali.
Finally, parents, remember to see if your child has a credit report and consider freezing it to prevent unauthorised use.
While there's no 100 per cent guarantee your child won't become an identity theft victim, a few basic precautions can improve their odds of staying cyber-safe.
Tribune Content Agency