The battle for your privacy is an ongoing one, a battle which plays out in marketing meetings, board rooms, and courtrooms. Companies have to weigh their customers’ needs and wants against the investment they make in their goods and services, while still meeting the government’s current regulations for protecting data and not infringing on citizen’s rights.

It’s those regulations that are making news this week, as an appeals court has now ruled that AT&T is outside of the Federal Trade Commission’s regulatory reach. The company’s “common carrier” status means it functions more like a utility than a service provider, and as such, does not fall under the same privacy umbrella that other companies do.

While consumer privacy—especially in relation to phone companies and internet providers—is a really big deal, it’s also a tricky issue. Giving these companies access to their customers’ internet searches, for example, is what enables advertising. Those pesky ads you see online might be annoying, but they’re also what make the internet operate at a price that consumers can afford.

But what really happens as a result of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in FTC v AT&T Mobility is that common carriers are currently operating without a lot of regulation concerning what is private and what isn’t. That means the door is now open for Congress to have to step in and draft legislation that outlines what those companies can and cannot do with your activity.

This might seem like one of those “facts of life” areas where we have to take the good with the bad. After all, you can avoid having companies track your activity if you just stay off the internet. But there is another huge implication here, and that’s how this will affect the Internet of Things connected devices that are slowly but surely making their way into common household use.

Without regulation concerning consumer privacy, who’s to say the activity of your IoT devices has to be protected information? Who will be allowed to see when your IoT thermostat kicks on, meaning you’re home? Who will track the data when you lock your front door remotely, potentially telling anyone that you’ve left for the day? Even more alarming, who will be allowed to see the hourly readout from your IoT insulin meter, including your health insurance or life insurance companies?

Those are all very alarming hypothetical examples, but they speak to the need to establish regulations on what private data will be gathered, how it will be protected, and who will legally be allowed to access it. Without regulations, consumer data safeguards aren’t fully in place.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.

There are tens of millions of smartphone users in the US, and if you asked them their feelings on having their phones lost or stolen, the reactions might surprise you. The obvious answers involve inconvenience or the expense of replacing it, but some users might list losing their phone right up there with fear of bodily harm. Why? As one teenager put it, “My whole life is in that phone!”

She wasn’t really exaggerating. Her email, text messages, phone contacts, and social media accounts are all routed through her smartphone. Her credit card is stored in there in order to purchase apps or music, but also as a real-world payment method through a mobile wallet. As a college student, her textbooks are in there, complete with all of the annotations she made, and her calendar is stored in there with her work schedule, her class schedule, and even activities involving her private life.

Now envision all of that information—her physical location and when to find her there, her friends’ names, her credit card, her entire online identity—falling into a thief’s hands.

There’s a downside to all the convenience and connectivity that smartphones provide. Without the proper protection in place, anyone who picks up your device can have complete access. The best way to stop someone from using your physical device against you is to make sure you’ve passcode locked the device, and that your passcode is not a sequence that is easily guessed, like 1-2-3-4.

But even with a passcode, it’s still a good idea to log out of your apps whenever you use them, or at least log out of the critical apps if entering your password is too much of a bother. Which apps should you be especially careful of?

  1. Email – With all of the flashy ways to communicate now, email might seem a little bit outdated. But with access to your email, a thief can alter practically every account you own. The first step is to get into your account and change your email password. Right away, you’re locked out of it. Then, once he controls the password, he simply opens every app you have and clicks “forgot my password.” The reset link will come to your email address, which again, he now controls. He changes your password on every account you own.
  2. Online Banking – This one is too obvious, and fortunately, a lot of banks’ apps automatically log you out. But just in case, make sure your banking app is secure by exiting it completely every time you use it, and by protecting it with a strong, unique password.
  3. Mobile Wallet – The same is true for your mobile payment method. Mobile payments are very convenient and very secure, but they also have the added benefit of being accepted at more and more retailers. But with so much at stake, don’t leave it logged in or trust that the app will kick you out after it closes. Log out, and actually watch the screen return to the log in screen.
  4. Social Media – You might be tempted to think that anyone who gets in your Snapchat or Facebook account is going to be pretty bored by all the birthday wishes and cat videos, but there is actually a whole world of damage a thief can do with social media. The first step is to start sending out friend requests to people he knows, including himself or his ghost accounts, and then invite your friends to “like” or connect with those invitations. That opens the door to scams and fraud. Of course, the very last thing you need is relationship- and career-ending posts, like inflammatory political, religious, or even prejudicial posts, or posts which contain pornography or illegal activity.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.

The world of social media is a truly great innovation thanks to the connectivity that it brings to all of us. But each platform functions in distinct ways, and understanding how to protect yourself from major threats is crucial to staying safe online.

Social media platforms aren’t inherently dangerous. It’s what other users choose to do with those platforms that can result in harm to your privacy and your identity. One of the chief threats you may face is in connecting with other people who are either intentionally or accidentally out to cause trouble.

Intentional threats on social media tend to be self-explanatory. But it’s not just people stealing your posts or photographs, or the danger of oversharing information about yourself. Sometimes, the people you connect with can be at the heart of the problem. It may come in the form of accepting a friend request from someone you don’t know, only to be lured into a scam and asked for money. You may find a new friend who sends you the link to a video through a private message, only the link actually contains a virus that steals data from your computer. You may even be pulled into a criminal activity through your new social media connections, one that you have no idea how to get yourself out of.

One of the most surprising social media platforms swarming with users who are intentionally seeking to cause you harm is Skype. Skype is truly one of the most useful internet tools; depending on the type of account you have, you can text, talk, or video chat with people all around the world through your computer.

But Skype has been flooded with scammers who use the video chat feature to extort money from their victims. You receive a contact request from someone who wants to connect with you, so you click it, even though you don’t know the person (usually a bad idea). You strike up a text-based conversation, which then escalates to video chatting. Before long, you and the sweet-talking person on the other side of the screen engage in more intimate video communication, only you’re unaware that the other person is recording you.

After the video session ends, you’re threatened with all manner of public disclosure if you don’t pay up. The video of you from this private conversation will be posted on your Facebook wall, sent to your professional connections over LinkedIn, emailed to your spouse, and worse. Sadly, there’s no guarantee the extortion will end once you pay their price; you may be subjected to further demands for money, or the video may still end up online even if you pay.

That’s a very extreme example of what can happen when you friend someone you don’t actually know on social media, and there a lot of other ways these intentional scammers can come after you. But what about your actual friends, or people you’re somewhat connected to? What’s the harm in friending that lady from your old neighborhood, or your former co-worker from a summer job?

It’s hard to know how safe that person is being online. Are you being subjected to hate speech or inflammatory images? Worse, are you being tagged in those posts, so that your name is now connected to something that you wouldn’t want people to see? What about viruses being sent out as links in your inbox, or Facebook hoaxes that get shared to thousands of people at once?

It can be hard to protect yourself from social media connections with “real life” friends or relatives. There’s always the fear that unfriending or unfollowing them will lead to public embarrassment the next time you two meet. Fortunately, a lot of platforms make it easy to avoid the discomfort, and simply let you “hide” the person’s posts instead of actually going so far as to sever the connection. They will still see what you share online, but you won’t be subjected to their content or unsafe internet activity.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.

Keeping things private on social media might sound like an oxymoron. After all, some of the benefits of the different platforms are to connect with people around the world, to make new friends over shared views, and to engage with strangers in order to understand our differences. But if you’re not aware of the privacy pitfalls that each different platform carries, you may be inviting a threat to your security.

There are two great rules of thumb that every social media user has to keep in mind when posting online: despite your privacy settings, nothing is every truly private on the internet, and nothing is ever deleted.

Facebook

As one of the most widely used global social media platforms, it’s become a mainstay of everyday life for a lot of people. But just changing your settings to “friends only” and thinking you’re truly corralled in a protective bubble isn’t really accurate. You have to remember that a lot of your content can be shared by your own friends and family. Even photographs, which can’t easily be shared with those outside of your circle just by clicking a button, can be cut-and-pasted or screenshot captured. A number of upset parents, for example, have discovered their own pictures being used by other Facebook users. Update your Facebook settings here: https://www.facebook.com/settings

Twitter

Another platform that carries with it a few privacy considerations. If Facebook is a way to connect with friends and family by reciprocating (meaning, following each other), Twitter works in almost the opposite way. Its goal is to connect you with virtual strangers, since anyone is allowed to follow you without your permission. You are not required to see their posts, though, so you may eventually reach a point where you have no idea who is seeing your original content, your shared tweets, and other posts.

One concern Twitter users might have is that their tweets can appear in search engines. If you conduct a Google search for a specific current event topic, you may very well find individuals’ tweets in the results. That usually doesn’t cause anyone any problems, but it does mean that people can see your posts without you knowing about it. To change that, Twitter offers users a setting in the menu to prevent their tweets from being routed to search engines.

Update your Twitter settings here: https://twitter.com/settings/applications

Instagram

An increasingly popular photo-based site that also offers the option to make posts public or private. Considering the very personal and sometimes sensitive nature of photographs, some experts recommend changing your entire account to only display to friends and family. However, the screenshot warning still applies, and those who are using Instagram to reach audiences with their work (like actors, artists, photographers, and more) need to be able to reach a large audience and have their content shared.

Update your Instagram settings here: https://instagram.com/accounts/manage_access

Snapchat

This app is constantly makes headlines for its often-tenuous connections to negative situations. That’s not the platform’s fault, but its very method makes it more likely to be used for less-than-savory purposes. A long-held belief about the company was that it was actually founded for the specific purpose of sending explicit content to others without the recipient being able to keep a copy of it.

The first problem is that users quickly figured out how they could actually grab a copy of whatever you sent, so it’s not a “safe” platform in that regard. The other issue is that Snapchat claims it does not keep a copy of anything its users send, and therefore your private communications are protected. That turned out not to be true when hackers broke into the servers for several cellular providers; Snapchat may not be storing your naked pictures, but companies like Verizon and others do store the content for security purposes (it’s how the police can nab a criminal through cell phone records and SMS messages).

Update your Snapchat settings here: https://support.snapchat.com/en-US/a/privacy-settings2

It’s important the users understand there are a lot more platforms than just these few, and that all of them have their weaknesses when it comes to your security. The most important privacy setting isn’t in your account, though, it’s in your own behavior. Never post anything—a photograph, a viewpoint, or even an offhand reply to someone else’s post—that you would not want shared with others.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.

Social media can be a mixed blessing. It’s a great way to stay connected with friends and family and to keep yourself informed. However, it’s also an open door for threats to your privacy, the opportunity to fall victim to a scammer, and worse, personal attacks from fellow users who may take issue with your posts. The knee-jerk reaction that so many of us feel about something we read online can lead to anger, threats, cyberbullying, and malicious targeting.

We often think of preteens and teens who get targeted by cyberbullying, but it’s not just young people who can fall victim to vicious social media attacks. Any user who’s had the experience of their comments or posts being taken out of context or interpreted in a way they were not intended can attest to the reactions of other people who take offense and then take action.

So how do you continue to enjoy the benefits of social media without inviting attacks?

There’s a really great acronym to keep in mind where social media is concerned: THINK. Schools and businesses around the country are urging their social media users to THINK before posting any kind of online content, as it stands for:

  • Is it TRUE?
  • Is it HELPFUL?
  • Is it INSPIRING?
  • Is it NECESSARY?
  • Is it KIND?

Unfortunately, a lot of what we tend to post online and on social media falls short of the THINK model. While it is absolutely your right to post your own viewpoints and comments on your social media pages, it bears mentioning that this invites others to fire back against your posts. It can also be linked to more serious retaliation, like account hacking and scamming.

One of the forms of identity theft that victims report every single month to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s 24-hour toll-free call center is internet takeover, which happens when someone gains access to your online accounts. This can happen to anyone, whether there’s been a social media “war” or not, but a known tactic among hackers who wish to “punish” someone is to take over the websites or social media accounts and use them for further public humiliation. This happened very recently to a noted actress, whose website was hacked by people who were angry over the fact that she dared to defend herself by speaking out against online bullies.

In order to avoid a lot of the problems that social media chaos can cause, just remember to THINK. If it’s true, kind, and useful, then there’s far less chance that someone will use your words against you.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.

You’re sitting at a conference table, a work meeting fully underway. Your phone is next to your notebook, but never fear, you’ve turned off the ringer for this important company meeting. Even if a text comes in, it won’t disturb anyone.

Until your spouse sends a sweet text message: Love you, can’t wait til our special alone time tonight!

If you’re one of the many phone users who doesn’t bother to turn off app notifications in their lock screen, the person sitting next to you may very well have seen that message. The meeting is about to take a very interesting turn if your tablemate happens to burst out laughing.

This might seem like a fairly harmless and far-fetched scenario, but it’s just one way to illustrate what kinds of information will appear on your “lock” screen if you don’t turn off the setting. Game notifications like “You have three more lives in FarmyTown!” may appear, letting everyone know you play games on your company-issued phone, and calendar reminders may pop up at inopportune times that remind you—and anyone sitting around you—that you have a colonoscopy scheduled for the next day.

But the real problem from a privacy standpoint is if someone gets their hands on your mobile device, then uses those notifications to work their way around your passcode. Text messages from friends and family members, Facebook notifications from groups you’ve joined, reminders from doctors’ offices or pharmacies may all pop up even when your phone is locked. By gleaning enough of these notifications, a thief can start to piece together your information.

Fortunately, depending on your smartphone’s manufacturer, you can disable these notifications so they won’t appear on the lock screen. Don’t worry, they’ll still appear whenever you unlock your phone, so your messaging icon will still display a new number, your calendar icon will still indicate an event, and more. You just won’t be broadcasting your personal life to the world when your phone is locked.

If you have an iPhone, click on the Settings icon and scroll down to Notifications. In that section, you’ll see all of your apps listed, and each one should tell you whether it is turned off or what you’ve allowed it to do. You can customize your notifications for all of your apps so that the notifications are either turned off, blocked from the lock screen, or even blocked from the icon itself.

If your phone is powered by Android, the ability to turn off notifications on your lock screen is only enabled if your phone is passcode protected. If it’s not protected, then who cares who can see notification? All they have to do is tap the screen to wake it up.

To set your passcode—which is a good idea anyway—go to the Settings menu either by swiping down on your home screen or opening it in the master list of apps, then select Security, and then Screen Lock. When you set up your passcode, it will offer you the option to limit your lock screen notifications. If you already have a passcode but didn’t enable this feature at the time you set it up, simply go to Settings and then click on Sound & Notification to make this change.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.

Smartphones have become—for lack of a better term—even smarter in recent years. The term once just applied to a cellular handset that could access the internet, but now many users are forgoing a portable computer because their smartphones are as capable as any other device.

One of the initial drawbacks in the early days of smartphones, however, was the black hole of privacy flaws. From automatic geotagging in photographs to the lack of antivirus protection, a smartphone was the perfect tool to do the dirty work for the criminals.

Now, with each new model and new update to some of the most popular smartphones on the market, your privacy is a whole lot more secure…if you know how to protect it, that is.

One of the chief problems is in the default global access settings. Most phone manufacturers and operating systems are set in such a way that you have to revoke permission to your personal information, rather than grant that permission. If you don’t manually turn off access to your photographs, your social media accounts, and even your phone’s flashlight, you may be leaving the door wide open for anyone to sneak in.

So where do you find these settings? Let’s start with Apple, who’s long been known for a focus on privacy and security. In most of the newer iPhones, you can go to the Settings app and scroll down to the Privacy bar. Within this folder, you can see which apps you have on your phone, and what they’re able to access, like your photos or your microphone. This is where you’ll make those changes and revoke or grant access, but remember that some apps won’t function the way they were intended without this access. You can always go back in and change it later if that’s a problem.

In this same menu, it’s a good idea to revoke access to your Location Settings to any apps that don’t actually need it (why does your recipe app need to know where you’re standing?). Under the Location Settings, you can tell each different app what location information it can have. You can set it to Never, While Using, and Always, depending on what app it is and what it needs to know.

If you’re an Android user—and chances are very good that you’re running Android on your phone if it’s not an iPhone—then you have some privacy settings to look for as well. In your Settings menu, you can actually turn on or off the option to see your location, and the option for your phone to track your location history for an improved search experience. You have the additional option of selecting whether you want your phone to use wifi connections, cell phone towers, and even satellite GPS to follow you.

Google has also built-in the option to tell advertisers not to track you based on your location or your internet searches on your phone. While this tracking ID was created to make sure that ads you see are actually relevant, such as not bothering you with ads for a store you don’t even have in your area, some people don’t like the idea of having their everyday activities being used for marketing purposes.

Of course, one of the most secure smartphone tactics you can use is to install a VPN on your phone. This stands for virtual private network, is like a tunnel that lets you onto the internet without others being able to see what you’re doing. It’s probably an overkill security measure for many consumers’ day-to-day phone use; but if you ever do anything sensitive like access your online banking or use your college’s app to enter information or check your grades, it’s a good way to keep prying eyes out of your smartphone.

There’s something important to keep in mind about privacy settings in your phone: if your phone is ever lost or stolen, or worse, if a family member is ever missing and has their phone with them, the phone cannot be located if you’ve revoked the tracking app’s access to the location. Be sure to keep “find my phone” activated in order to be able to call up the phone’s location on a computer.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.

Microsoft’s newest operating system raised a few eyebrows and ruffled a few feathers when it launched, largely in the way it was rolled out. While industry experts were excited about the new features and upgrades before Windows 10 went live, the public sentiment quickly soured after a lot of people found themselves forced to use the new system due to their computers’ automatic upgrades.

But it wasn’t just the arm-twisting into using the new software that has security advocates concerned. Windows 10 has become synonymous with requiring consumers to turn over a lot of information in the form of the permissions that the operating system requires. Fortunately, there are some steps that the system allows; users can make some privacy changes in order to reduce the amount of over-the-shoulder watching that Microsoft can do with its default setup. The trick is knowing which steps to take and where to find them.

If you can make your way to the Settings menu in Windows 10, you’ll find a tab for Privacy. Smartphone users who’ve grown accustomed to turning on and off certain features in their phones’ menus will probably recognize the same capability in this menu. Simply turn off the things that you don’t want “watched,” like your location settings within certain desktop apps. Remember, though, turning off the location settings can be a double-edged sword; your calendar app might not need to know where you are, but a map feature obviously does. And a few apps like Microsoft’s Cortana virtual assistant don’t give you the option to turn off those settings.

Speaking of Cortana…Microsoft launched an update to Windows 10 called the August Anniversary. This update no longer lets you stop Cortana from reporting your search history back to Microsoft. All of your internet searches and requests through this feature are tracked and stored, so be mindful of that fact when using Cortana.

You have to remember that altering your privacy settings will give you some peace of mind about your data, but it will also change how your computer functions and how certain apps work. In extreme cases, some apps won’t work at all if you change their settings. Just remember that you can turn them back on if you’re no longer happy with the functionality of your operating system.

One of the most important things that any computer user can keep in mind—regardless of what type of computer, what type of operating system, or what privacy settings are put in place—is that your technology is only as safe as your understanding of it. If you don’t know what permissions you’ve granted to a software company or if you don’t know the scope of your privacy settings online, you might be leaving the door open for someone to waltz in and steal your data. Safeguard your tech and your privacy by limiting what you share, where you share it, and what permission you give to software companies.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.

Social media is really a great tool, but it’s also filled with privacy pitfalls, both malicious and accidental. While there are scammers who use social media for criminal intent, you can cause a lot of your own privacy problems through your internet behaviors.

Two platforms in particular—Instagram and Snapchat—have recently grown to become widely popular social media sites. Both platforms specialize in sharing images and videos, but while their purposes are very similar, they were grown out of two very different purposes.

Instagram launched as a site to share and store pictures. It was eventually purchased by Facebook, and has a strong integration in that platform. The site is fun because it specializes in visual content, and allows the user to make minor editing adjustments and add filters to enhance the photo. Its target user base is between the ages of 18 and 35, which is a fairly broad range.

Snapchat, on the other hand, has a slightly more suspect purpose, allowing users to send “compromising” content to specific people without the fear of repercussions. Photos and videos sent on Snapchat disappear after watching them; unlike Instagram, if the recipient tries to save the photo through a screenshot, the sender is notified. It didn’t take long for Snapchat’s user base—who are overwhelmingly under the age of 25—to figure out that users could send racy photos to a specific person in a practice known as “sexting,” and then that photo would instantly be deleted.

Now, both platforms have a nearly identical feature called Stories. Snapchat launched Stories in 2013, and Instagram has only recently followed suit. The Stories feature allows users to create whole compilations of photos, which are then shared with everyone they are connected to by default. The images in Stories—both on Snapchat and Instagram—are visible for 24 hours, and then they disappear.

What could go wrong? Plenty.

One of the first mistakes social media users make is in believing that their perceived level of privacy is actually real. You might select “friends only” on your posts, but that doesn’t mean someone can’t cut and paste, screenshot, or use another means to nab a picture. One father even gathered evidence of bullying through Snapchat videos by literally recording his daughter’s phone with his own phone each time a message came through. There is no such thing as a photo that is truly unshareable, and your accounts are set to Public by default.

But it may actually be the users’ own behavior and reasons for sharing that cause them the most problems. Instagram’s 300 million users are accustomed to sharing more intentional content, and manipulating the image with filters before sharing in order to make it look nice. Snapchat’s 100 million daily users are sharing content on impulse, and have the option to add bizarre screen lenses that are goofy or silly. Instagram might be where you share a photo of a bride and groom’s clasped hands, while Snapchat is where you post a photo of your best friend after adding a rainbow vomiting out of her open mouth and alien eyeballs.

So the issue with Stories is this: our own user behaviors are going to affect our ability to protect our privacy and prevent online bullying. It will be up to users to remember how the platforms work, who can see their content, and how to safeguard their privacy—and their dignity—by self-regulating what they share.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.

Another school year is ready to kick off, if it hasn’t started in your region already. Most kids are eagerly waiting to find out which of their friends will be in their class, and hoping they got the “nice” teacher. School supply lists are cropping up in stores, where the aisles are filled with shiny new notebooks and lunchboxes.

But someone else is just as eager for a new school year to start: hackers, scammers, online predators, and identity thieves. With so much digitization involving students as young as preschool, a new school year means a wealth of new online data to be snapped up.

Schools around the country have made the leap to technology-based administration and instruction. You may have received your school supply list via a Facebook page for your child’s school, and you may have received emails or text messages with important updates on the school year. A lot of parents will register their kids via an online portal—no more thick packets of papers to fill out on the first day of school!—and many schools have even adopted an online payment portal for adding funds to your child’s lunch account.

All of this innovation saves time and prevents mix ups, but it can also mean more and more opportunities for someone to invade your family’s privacy. Here are some tips for safeguarding your cybersecurity as you head into a new school year:

1. Watch what information you enter

For most parents, the online registration process is a great feature. Just remember that all of your family’s information may be required, from birth dates to addresses to Social Security numbers. Many online portals are built with a feature that lets you opt out of things like inputting the SSN, and that’s a good idea. If you have any doubts about the security of the portal, contact your school system and find out how they protect the data.

2. Check before you pay

It doesn’t matter who’s asking for your credit card or bank card number, whether it’s an online shopping site or your child’s school. If you don’t see an HTTPS designation at the beginning of the web address, then you can’t be sure the website is secure enough to enter your account number. Always look for the security designation before you pay for school fees, lunch accounts, or other related expenses.

3. BYOD vs Technology

Many schools have adopted technology in the classroom, and it’s a sure sign that our students are being prepared for a 21st century education. But there are different ways schools can implement this greater focus on technology. Most schools either issue school-owned laptops, Chromebooks, or tablets, or they choose to adopt a Bring Your Own Device policy that uses the students’ own hardware in the classroom. There will be strict rules about how students must use the device—no matter who actually owns it—in the classroom, but make sure your student knows how to follow those rules and how to keep himself safe when using it at home.

4. Be careful of the school network

If your student’s school has Wi-Fi, they should have pretty rigid filters and malware protections in place. Since you can’t know that, though, be aware that a device your child uses on the school’s network and then brings home to use on your private network can infect your computers. Talk to your child about only visiting trusted websites and make sure you’re keeping your family’s antivirus and antimalware protection up-to-date on all of the computers or devices.

5. Keep the conversation going

Only a few years ago, parents were cautioned to keep the family computer in the living room where parents could easily monitor how it was being used. Now, with smartphones, tablets, and laptops, it’s not quite as easy to see what your kids are doing online at all times. That’s why it’s absolutely vital that you talk to your kids about internet safety, scams, cyberbullying, online predators, and other dangerous issues. Make sure they understand they can come to you and ask you anything, no matter where they may have found it; there are sites that actively seek to lure kids in with seemingly innocent content, so keep that in mind when addressing kids’ internet mistakes.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.