November 7, 2016

Financial Literacy Lessons: Holiday Crime Prevention

Along with a large population of the country, your students are likely planning to partake in Black Friday festivities this month, kicking off the holiday spending season. Whether they are checking out sales online or staying up until midnight to head to the big box retailers in person, these big spending days during the holiday season bring increased risk of fraud and identity theft. Below are the basic financial literacy lessons to teach your students so that they can adequately protect themselves now and in the future.

What is Identity Fraud or Identity Theft?

The Department of Justice defines identity theft and identity fraud as referring to all types of crimes in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in a way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain. Types of personal data that, once stolen, could allow someone else to profit at your expense include your social security number, bank account number or credit card information.

How does it occur?

It can occur in a variety of ways – more frequently during the holiday season – many of which your students may not realize. Your students should be very careful with sharing their credit card numbers, or their parents’ card numbers, over the phone or n public. They should also be wary of strangers standing too close at the ATM. It’s also important to teach them to recognize suspicious emails or requests for personal information.

How can I protect myself?

Students are just as at risk as adults, perhaps even more so if they are unprepared. While some fraud and identity theft is unpredictable and difficult to avoid, such as those caused by massive data breaches, teaching your students to be aware is a crucial financial literacy lesson in today’s world. Here are some tips and best practices to share with your students:

  1. When ordering something online, be sure to place orders only on secure websites. Avoid sharing your personal data with smaller websites that are easier to hack.
  2. If a website offers to store your credit card information, be sure that your account is protected by a very secure password. Teach your students to incorporate lower case and upper case letters, numbers and symbols in their passwords and always avoid using the same one repeatedly.
  3. Use cash when possible, especially during the holiday season. If you can’t use cash, then a credit card is actually safer than debit, says U.S. News & World Report. This is because a debit card pulls funds directly from your bank account whereas a credit card does not. This provides a valuable opportunity for a financial literacy lesson on credit cards vs. debit cards.
  4. Be suspicious of unexpected emails or phone calls requesting your personal information.
  5. During the holidays especially – but a good financial literacy practice year round – encourage your students to sit with their parents and carefully review their checking accounts or credit card statements, if they have one. Watch for any suspicious charges and flag them immediately.
  6. Practice safe ATM behavior. Teach your students to be very careful at the ATM, shield their pin entry with their hands and watch for anyone standing too close while they withdraw cash. U.S. News & World Report also urges you to watch out for skimmers, which run rampant during the holidays. These are devices attached to an ATM machine that copies your card and allows thieves to replicate it.

Armed with these financial literacy lessons, your students will be able to shop more safely this holiday season and be more aware of the possible threats to their personal data. These are important lessons that your students will carry with them in the future.

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