As school resumes and classrooms fill with students for another academic year, parents are presented with an opportunity to discuss “stranger danger” with their kids. Nowadays, with the digital world at our fingertips, online predators can easily target children.
Online scams feed off children’s innocence and curiosity, leading to various negative outcomes, including physical danger, losing money, and some seriously heartbreaking stories. A recent study revealed that young people in the United States suffered $210 million in losses due to online scams in 2022. This represents a remarkable increase of 2,500% since 2017.
Social Catfish, a company specializing in reverse search technology, has released a comprehensive study examining the “State of Internet Scams in 2023,” utilizing data collected in 2023 from the FBI IC3 and FTC.
“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. To better protect our kids, it is incumbent on parents and schools to spend more time talking about the importance of online safety.”
Three online scams that parents should be aware of
The study highlights three online scams that parents should be aware of and provides guidance on how to avoid them. Numerous online games and mobile apps offer in-game purchases. The research notes that children might not fully grasp the concept of spending actual money in a virtual environment. With a simple click, they can inadvertently make unauthorized purchases or, in some cases, unwittingly share their parents’ credit card information. These scenarios are commonly referred to as online gaming and in-app purchase scams. Parents can set up devices to require approval for in-game purchases, keeping children from making unauthorized transactions.
Romance and influencer scams
It’s important to stay informed about romance and sextortion scams as well. Online predators often target lonely teenagers on social media platforms and initiate an intense “love bombing” approach. According to the study, teenagers with lower self-esteem are more vulnerable to falling for these tactics. Scammers might request money or personal information, potentially for identity theft purposes. They may also suggest meeting in person, which could pose physical risks. In some cases, they may even ask for explicit photos and use them as leverage, threatening to share them online unless a ransom is paid. They recommend teaching your child how to conduct a reverse image search to verify the identity of someone online. Additionally, emphasize the importance of never sending money or explicit photos online.
Another aspect to remain cautious about is contests organized by social media influencers. According to the study’s findings, fake Instagram accounts impersonating athletes or celebrities are reaching out to children, claiming that they’ve won contests offering free merchandise or tickets. In these scenarios, kids are often asked to send money or click on phishing links, which can inadvertently divulge their personal information and login details, leading to identity theft. It’s worth noting that these counterfeit social media accounts typically have few followers. The advice here is clear. Never send money or disclose personal information to a celebrity online.
Check out the full complete study and get more tips here.