As the end of the year looms closer, it’s time to start thinking about your high school senior’s future after graduation. It's never too early to help your child start writing admission essays and apply for colleges, but there are some precautions you should take as you fill out admission and scholarship applications. Use this opportunity to teach your child about protecting his or her identity online.
Social Media Privacy Settings
Even if your child is careful about what he or she posts online to sites like Facebook and Twitter, there are ways thieves can use information from social media for a cyber attack. According to The Telegraph, one of the most important things you can do to protect your social media information is change your privacy settings. On Facebook, make sure posts are set to “Friends Only” for viewing and don’t list private information like your phone number, email, specific birth date and physical address. You should also teach your child not to share too much on social media while they are away at college. Cyber criminals can use someone’s posts to know where they are or gather other private information.
Be Careful With Emails
As your child is filling out applications and researching different schools and scholarships, they may get a lot of emails from different institutions. Teach your child that it is important to only open emails from addresses they know. According to Webroot, it may be easy to identify most phishing scams, but some may look legitimate. Never click on a link in an email if anything looks unfamiliar, even if it is from a known company or your own bank with the right logo and everything. Go directly to the trusted site instead to make sure your information is secure.
Only Use Trusted Sites
It can be easy to get overwhelmed by the thousands of school and scholarships websites on the Internet. As you research sites and decide to fill out applications, make sure the site is secure before entering any private information. According to Fox News, a site is secure if the URL begins with “https,” not “http.” There should also be a lock symbol by the URL. Even if a site has both of these safety indicators, never enter any personal or financial information if you don’t feel secure with the site. Fox also suggests using a built-in fraudulent website detection tool that many browsers offer, including Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox.
Monitor Your Identity
One of the best ways to fight identity theft and cyber crime is to track your credit, financial statements and other private information. Use trusted credit report sites to keep a close eye on your report and immediately report any unusual or unfamiliar activity. It’s also a smart idea to use identity theft protection services such as Lifelock, which will monitor all of your personal and financial files and information and will immediately alert you if something looks suspicious and work to restore your identity of something does happen.
Be Wary of Free WiFi
Teach your child to be careful around free WiFi and public hotspots, especially when he or she is away at college or in any other public place. According to Blackboard.com, cyber criminals often set up WiFi hotspots and can easily obtain your passwords and other information when you connect to them. Always check WiFi connections are legitimate and adjust your settings to not connect automatically. You can also use a VPN to encrypt data on your computer and turn off shared folders.