Videogames have long been a source of stimulation and fun for kids, and with the advent of online gaming, it’s even become an opportunity for socializing. However, a major data breach in the Sony PlayStation Network of online gamers recently raised the concerns of parents and younger gamers alike.
An estimated 77 million user accounts were affected by the breach, which gave hackers access to users’ names, birthdays, email addresses, and home addresses. Sony reports that although users’ credit card data was encrypted, they cannot rule out the possibility that some credit card data was stolen. The company is currently retooling its PlayStation Network and has offered affected users a year of free identity protection.
We believe this offers a teachable moment for children to learn about identity protection. With the PlayStation breach and a warning about a Microsoft Xbox Live phishing scam shortly after, it seems that video games are an expanding frontier for identity thieves. Most parents are familiar with the vigilance required to detect phishing attempts, but most children probably haven’t been exposed to malicious scammers, and might be caught off guard.
Now that there is a huge amount of users’ information in the hands of identity thieves, we think it is more important than ever to be aware of the signs of attempted identity theft. Here are some tips we believe every parent should share with their children to ensure that videogames can continue being a safe, secure, and fun experience for the whole family:
- Be extremely careful about what personal information you share online. Names, email addresses, phone numbers, and passwords are very valuable to hackers, so any request for such information should be carefully scrutinized.
- Triple-check the sender’s email address when you get a suspicious message. For instance, “ymail” looks a lot like “gmail”.
- Don’t get a false sense of security from a message that already includes some of your personal information.
- Always check links in email messages before you click on them. Hover your mouse over the link to make sure it goes where it says it will; if it has numbers, it can’t be trusted.
- Don’t register your credit cards with online vendors. If it’s stored in the vendor’s database, it’s a target for hackers to try to steal.
- Beware of SMiShingattacks on your mobile phone. If you receive a suspicious text message, do not reply. Call a number that you trust provided by your financial institution.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it is! In one real-life example, a scammer persuaded a 14-year old to trade an email address and password for Xbox Live points. Instead, $500 worth of games were fraudulently charged to the boy’s account.
- Use an ID theft monitoring service like EZShield to be alerted of any suspicious activity in your accounts.
By having an honest, educational discussion with your children, you can arm them with the skills they need to have fun and stay protected in the world of online gaming.