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Scottish parents beware over-sharing on social media can unwittingly put children at risk of identity fraud

Posted: 21st May 2018
  • New Barclays research shows that three quarters of Scottish parents proudly share images of their children on social media without realising they may contain personal information that fraudsters can use
  • “Sharenting”[1] could account for two thirds of all online identity theft committed against young people by 2030
  • Ahead of the bank holiday, the Barclays #Digisafe campaign is kicking off the Great Digital Reboot to encourage parents to spring clean their social media profiles

Huge efforts have been made to teach children about the dangers of social media, but new research from Barclays shows that parents may actually be the weakest link in the chain, with many parents’ digital behaviours compromising their kids’ financial futures.

With the average Scottish parent spending 90 minutes on social media each day, and three quarters (75 per cent) sharing images of their children which may contain personal information that fraudsters can use to steal their identity or scam them, parents are increasingly placing themselves and their families at risk. And the consequences are huge – the Barclays study predicts that parental over-sharing could cost today’s under-18s in the UK as much as £676 million every year by 2030, with fraudsters using the personal information to gain access to bank accounts, take out loans and credit cards, or make purchases.

Keep personal data personal

Because the harmful effects of “Sharenting” may not be felt for a number of years, often until these children start earning money and become fraud targets themselves, many parents are being lulled into a false sense of security. With fraudsters often needing just a name, date of birth and address to steal someone’s identity, the new research suggests that another decade of parents over-sharing personal information online could result in as many as 7.4 million annual incidences of online identity fraud by 2030.

Information that Scottish parents have been guilty of “Sharenting” about their children:

  1. Their name
  2. Their date of birth
  3. Their address
  4. Their place of birth
  5. The name of their school
  6. The places they’ve been on holiday
  7. The car they drive
  8. The pets they have
  9. The local clubs they attend
  10. Their favourite sports team

Unhelpfully, it doesn’t seem to be enough for parents to simply monitor their own accounts, as the research also revealed a need to keep a close eye on what others are positing too. Almost one third (31 per cent) of Scots have experienced a family member or friend posting a picture of their child on social media without their consent:

  • Across the UK, the proportion was higher amongst younger parents aged 18-34 and those with younger children – in fact, 42 per cent of those with a child aged 4-6 have had a friend or family member post without prior agreement
  • Almost a third (29 per cent) of Scottish parents admitted to doing nothing about it, despite being annoyed
  • And three quarters (72 per cent) of them don’t regularly monitor family and friends’ social media accounts to find out what information they are sharing about their children

The immediate risks of Sharenting

And it’s not just children who are at risk – parents are putting themselves at risk too. Barclays found that 86 per cent of Scottish parents share personal information online, and over a quarter (26 per cent) of parents include personal information in their passwords, often including a child’s name (10 per cent) or date of birth (7 per cent). Despite this, nearly one in ten (8 per cent) say they never change their passwords and another 35 per cent only do so when prompted.

That’s why, as part of its Great Digital Reboot, Barclays is calling on parents, as well as their friends and family members, to consider the potential risk of online fraud when they post, the type of information they are sharing and the privacy settings of their social media accounts.

Barclays top tips for keeping your family safe online:

  1. Review the privacy settings on your social media accounts
  2. Change your password regularly – at least once every 3 months – and avoid ‘obvious’ or ‘predictable’ words
  3. Think twice before posting personal information about yourself or your family on any social media channel
  4. Speak to friends or family members if they’re posting content about your family that you’re not happy with
  5. Be open with your child about social media and teach them how to protect themselves

Jodie Gilbert, Barclays Head of Digital Safety, said: “Through Social Media, it has never been easier for fraudsters to gather the key pieces of information required to steal someone’s identity. Careless online behaviour and insufficient privacy settings can reveal key details about yourself, your friends and your family, so it is vital to think before you post, and to carry out regular audits of your social media accounts to prevent that information from falling into the wrong hands.

Jodie Gilbert Barclays

[1] Sharenting: the (over)use of social media by parents to share content based on their children.

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