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Teenagers online and protecting against identity theft

09 February 2021

Whenever parents get together – especially those with teenagers – it’s not long before the horror stories of the digital lives of their children surface. Even the digitally proficient parents worry about not understanding what it is they’re kids are doing.

This February, marking Safer Internet Day (9 February), Australia’s eSafety Commissioner released research - the Digital Lives of Teens - addressing some of the knowledge vacuum.

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant says: “Our research shows that while teens’ increased use of technology offers many benefits, there is a distinct downside – dealing with negative online experiences such as unwanted contact and cyberbullying.”

Some of the top-level findings include:

  • Teenagers use an average of four different social media services, with newer services such as TikTok gaining ground.
  • Just over four in 10 teenagers had at least one negative online experience in the six months to September 2020, with three in 10 having experienced unwanted contact from a stranger.
  • Two in 10 teenagers reported being sent unwanted inappropriate content, such as pornography or violent content.
  • Nine in 10 teenagers sought to build positive online relationships after experiencing negative online behaviour themselves. These acts of kindness included posting positive/nice comments about others, supporting or listening to a friend who had a bad experience or making sure that peers were not excluded online.

The Commission wields powers relating to technology facilitated abuse including cyberbullying, image-based abuse, financial abuse and illegal and harmful online content. It also provides webinars and information dealing with how to keep your wits about you in your digital life, including around identity theft and fraud.

What is identity theft?

Stealing someone else’s identity begins with collecting their personal information. Often this is done by contacting you directly via email, phone, dating sites. But scammers also collect personal data through social media channels, online shopping and app use, in fact anywhere where indiscriminate oversharing and poor security habits allow them access to personal information. It’s the indiscriminate large-scale internet presence that can open users up to exploitation.

Who is vulnerable to identity theft?

Four groups of people are at higher risk of ID theft.

1)      Children – provide a clean slate and are vulnerable to exploitation because of lack of knowledge;

2)      Mega social media users and online shoppers - provide many access points by leaving all sorts of personal data for collection and use by criminals;

3)      High-income earners - provide large data footprints (higher volume of credit and debit use, and online financial transactions, including investing, online shopping, use of apps, etc.) which can leave members of this group vulnerable;

4)      The elderly - especially if they’re also high net-worth individuals are vulnerable because there is some research showing they’re less sceptical than other sections of the population. This is a proof point up for debate, especially when you consider users with high social media presences and less life experience.

How do I protect myself

  • Be aware what you share - choose the right privacy, location and safety settings on your devices, programs and social channels.
  • Protect your devices – use strong passwords and Multi Factor Authentication (MFA - having more than a password); download security updates/patches; lock your screen; invest in anti-virus software; steer clear of using public wi-fi.
  • Know your ‘friends’ – who are you connecting with online on social media and dating sites, or via email?
  • Shopping online – read customer reviews of the site to check reputation and security; look into the transaction and security software the site uses.

Protect your business

If you’ve started a business or you’re thinking about it, take steps to protect your business’ digital data both for your security and the security of customers.

For anyone who has been involved in identity theft, IDCARE can help


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