It seems like almost every day there is another breach of personal information.  The latest is Capital One, an incident in which a hacker gained access to 100 million credit card applications and accounts.  This leads to many people asking themselves: How can I protect my personal and financial information? Of course, a more important question is: How can I protect my and my family’s safety? Many times, the two issues are connected.

Chances are, at least some of your personal information is out there being bought and sold on the dark web.  You can, however, take steps to protect yourself and your family from predators.  The next few blogs will focus on how you can protect yourself from various types of criminals. 

Let’s start with protecting our children from folks who would like to harm them.  We often teach “Stranger Danger” to our children. The reality is that most children and young people are victimized by someone they know and trust. It may be a friend, a relative, a neighbor or someone they met at school or through social media. 

One way to protect our children is to be careful about what we post on social media. For example, if we proudly post a picture of our child in front of our home on the first day of school and post another one in front of the school, we need to be careful what else is in the picture besides our child. If our home address and the name of the school shows up in the picture, we now have given someone the information they need to find our child. 

Of course, there’s only so much you can do to protect your child on the Internet. The most important way to protect them is to be involved in their lives. Participate with them in school and social events, get to know their friends, teachers, and other folks they interact with. Be intentional about creating an environment where your children feel comfortable talking to you and spending time with you. Teach them if something doesn’t feel right or feels uncomfortable to them, it’s okay for them to talk to someone about it. 

Once your child is old enough to have a phone and access to social media, teach them to protect their personal information. You should also monitor their activity and make sure they understand that one of the stipulations to receiving a phone is that you can check it at any time and for any reason. There is nothing wrong with you, as the parent, occasionally grabbing your child’s phone and checking what they have posted on social media and who they are chatting with. Checking their phones tells you who their friends are, what they are posting, and what interests your child. All are great conversation starters and can alert you to red flags before they become dangerous issues.

There are a number of resources right here in Omaha that can help parents and children stay safe from predators both on and offline. The Set Me Free Project provides information to youth, parents, and communities on social media safety and human dignity. Project Harmony is another resource that helps prevent child abuse and child victimization in our area. And finally, if you know a woman or child who has been a victim of human trafficking or if you want to help those who are recovering from this experience, you can contact Rejuvenating Women for more information. Together, we can keep our children and ourselves safe both on and offline.

Judith Ackland has more than 26 years of experience in accountancy and financial planning, including seventeen years as a CFO of a diverse business. She started Crystal Financial in 2010 to help a wide array of individuals, families, and business owners better understand their finances and how good financial management could help them achieve their goals. Judith has an MA in Professional Accountancy from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln as well as a Certified Public Accountant Certificate and a Certified Financial Planner designation.

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