A new study found America’s youth lost a record $210 million to online scams last year, up 2,500% since 2017 – the largest increase of any age group. As kids head back to school, it is more important to discuss online safety and online predator scams than ever before.
Many adults were taught about “stranger danger” as kids and told never to get into a random van. In today’s technological world, online predators have even easier access to our children. Scams that prey on young people’s insecurity and naiveté can lead to physical harm, financial losses and tragically causes some kids to take their own lives.
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“The rate at which young people are being scammed is alarming,” said Social Catfish President David McClellan. “As a father of two, it can be scary to think about how vulnerable our kids are online. We need to raise the bar in terms of teaching online safety at home and in our schools.”
1. Online Games and In-App Purchases Scam: Many online games and mobile apps offer in-game purchases. A child may not fully understand spending real money in a virtual world. With one click, they can make unauthorized purchases and be tricked into sharing their parents’ credit card information.
How to Avoid: Parents should not allow children to make in-game purchases without approval.
2. Romance Scams and Sextortion: Online predators target lonely teens on social media and begin ‘love bombing’ them. Teens with low self-esteem are more susceptible to falling in love. Scammers will ask for money or personal information to commit identity theft. They may ask to meet in real life which could lead to physical assault. They may even request a sexy selfie and then threaten to release the photo on the Internet if a ransom is not paid.
How to Avoid: Perform a reverse image search to confirm the real identity of the person. Never send money or a sexy photo online.
3. Social Media Influencer Contests: Fake athlete or celebrity Instagram accounts are messaging kids letting them know they won a contest for free merchandise or tickets. Kids either have to send money or click on phishing links which inadvertently share their personal information and login credentials which are used to commit identity theft.
How to Avoid: Fake social media accounts have very few followers. Never send money or personal information to a celebrity online.