You're worried about your financial safety online with all the phishing scams about delayed packages or duty charges on things you ordered that you get in your inbox every day, but what about your kids? Online scams and fraud are constantly evolving and, as your kids grow up, they might get caught by a scammer if they're not careful — which could affect you and expose your financial information. Even worse, when they grow up, they could end up the victims of a financial scam themselves.
That's why it's so important that you teach your kids about financial safety and guarding their security online. Only there's just one problem: it's not a fun topic to talk to kids about. So, how do you make teaching your kids about protecting themselves financially playful and relevant?
Here are some tips for every age:
Ages 3 to 7
Kids at this age aren't old enough to have their own online accounts, which means that if they use technology, they have to use your accounts. For that reason, it's never too soon to learn about fraud and how to stay financially safe online. Here's what you can teach them:
- If your kids love to play a game on your phone or watch videos online, make sure that you set ground rules for how they use technology. Those rules might include that they only use the games you've approved as safe, they make no in-game purchases (if you can, turn that option off when giving the phone to your kids), and they don't respond to in-game messages. If they remember the rules when you ask them what they are — give them extra screen time as a reward. Make sure that you turn on the kids filter if that app or website has one.
- Take your kids with you to the bank and to see other financial professionals you trust. Tell them about how the person you're meeting with helps you with your finances and why you trust them. Kids this age love to ask questions, so let them ask the financial professional anything they want about their job.
Ages 8 to 12
Kids this age want to know everything about how the world works — and sometimes they think they already do. Leverage that to your advantage to help educate them about financial safety:
- Play what we like to call the 'Scam or Real' game with your kids. Read an email that you have recently received and ask them if they think it is a scam or real! If they guess right, give them a treat but then also let them know how you knew it was a scam. For example, show them how you check if the email is being sent from the place the sender says it is.
- Kids at this age are often able to start creating online accounts of their own. Talk to them about password safety and how to set up and remember passwords that will protect their online information. Passwords should be hard to guess, different for each account, have different kinds of characters, and be long. Support your kids by buying them a password manager program to help them stay protected and keep their passwords easily accessible.
- When you get a piece of mail or a phone call that seems like a scam, tell your kids about it. Did they call and tell you that you owed money to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)? Explain to your kids about how scammers try to play on your fear and teach them what to do if they get a call like that – call the CRA directly if they're worried.
Ages 12 to 15
Your child is entering their teenage years! Now that they're spending more time online, they're also more likely to encounter online scams. Here's how to prepare them:
- Give your child a prepaid card or gift card for their birthday specifically to have them buy something online for themselves. Teach them how to pay for something by helping them fill out the personal and payment information. Talk to them about how to figure out if a product being advertised on social media is a scam or not by showing them how they can do an online search of the company to see how well it is reviewed or if multiple people are complaining about not receiving their products or bad product quality.
- Watch a movie or TV show with your kids about someone who had their identity stolen and how hard it was for them to get it back. This is a great opportunity to talk to them about how to protect important numbers and information like your Social Insurance Number (SIN) or your credit card number. Teach your kids how to shred documents with that kind of information on them. Shredding is fun – especially cross-cutting shredders that essentially produces confetti. Have fun with that confetti at your next family night or birthday party.
- Did you once fall prey to a financial scam? Tell your kids about it and how falling for a scam is nothing to be ashamed of. Anyone can get taken in. Sharing that vulnerable story with your kids will help them know that if they ever get scammed, it's not their fault.
Ages 16 to 18
It's crunch time. Your child is almost an adult with all the responsibilities and opportunities that implies. They need a few final lessons in order to be able to protect themselves when you're not there to make sure they're financially safe. Here are some tips for what to teach:
- Review your credit card bill for grey charges. Grey charges are charges that you didn't intend to have on your bill or which you've forgotten about. They're usually from subscriptions that auto-renewed or things that you purchased accidentally since you didn't uncheck a well-hidden box. Tell your child about how to avoid those charges by reading carefully what you are agreeing to when you purchase something or creating calendar reminders to cancel auto-renewed subscriptions.
- ·Your child is almost ready to have their own credit card. It's time to teach them how to monitor their credit to make sure that no one has stolen their identity. Review your credit score online and go through it with them to show them how you connect all the items on your credit history with your known credit activity to make sure everything is as it should be.
- Reward your kids for spotting and telling you about phishing e-mails they receive. You might even want to send your kids a fake phishing email and see how they respond. Make it something tailored to them that they would be likely to fall for – like an irresistible deal for something they love or a file from a fake file sharing service that seems like it's coming from a family member. Talk to them about what they should do to protect themselves next time.
- Connect your kids with trusted financial advisors by helping them open a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) at any age (if they have a SIN number) and a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) at 18. This will teach them about investing and how to do it safely instead of by falling for get rich schemes or scammers.
The family that avoids fraud together, meets its financial goals together
No one wants to think about financial fraud happening to them. Whether you end up losing a few hundred dollars in a phishing scam or thousands of dollars if you have your credit card stolen — losing that money is stressful, can create financial hardship, and can be time consuming to clear up. By protecting your children by informing them in advance how to avoid financial fraud, you'll help keep them safe. You've got this — and soon they will, too.