Latest guidelines for protecting kids online: Internet Scambusters #988
Kids' online activities are among the fastest growing scam targets in the nation. And it's easy to see why.
Youngsters are potentially gullible and inexperienced -- the perfect target for crooks who steal tens of millions of dollars from them every year.
In this week's issue, we give parents the lowdown on the most common scams and guidelines on the best way to cut the risk that threatens their children.
Let's get started…
10 Scams Targeting Kids Online -- And How To Stop Them
More than a million American kids are scammed on the web every year. And here's the real shock - two-thirds of them are aged 8 or under!
According to the latest research (from monitoring site Social Catfish), people under 20 are the fastest growing scam target, handing over more than $20 million a year to crooks.
What's more, crooks also use the information and access that children give them to scam their parents.
This alarming situation underlines the importance for parents to protect their kids when they use the Internet.
But it's a big challenge. How do you safeguard children online when you're not always with them, don't want to appear too controlling, or simply don't know what to do? We have some answers for you.
10 Most Common Online Scams Targeting Kids
How vulnerable children are to online scams depends on their age and how they use the Internet. But the most common tricks involve either identity theft or loss of money. Some of the high-risk areas include:
- Fake competitions, talent searches, and online events. Youngsters love the idea of winning something or having their work displayed, and they're gullible enough to fall for a ruse that requests their personal information or even an entry fee on their folks' payment card.
- Games, quizzes, and other online activities that impose a recurring fee or require payments to "buy" access to higher levels or power to advance in gameplay. More than 40 percent of parents told a recent survey that their kids played online games every day.
- Phony scholarships and grants, including fraudulent student debt relief schemes.
- Fake bargains and free gifts or trials. This is the juvenile version of the too-good-to-be-true scam that targets all of us. Children with access to payment cards are often not savvy enough to spot the tricks.
- Phishing via emails, online clickbait links, and text messages that directly request personal information and passwords that take them to fake sign-on pages or provide access to "adult" sites.
- Hacking of equipment such as web cameras or video-calling activities.
- Making friends with imposters on social media, including the risk of being groomed by online predators.
- Theft of mobile devices.
- Tricks targeting health, fitness, and appearance areas to which youngsters may be particularly vulnerable, such as diet, weight loss programs, cosmetics, and fashion clothing.
- Fake news, videos, and ads that influence their behavior or provide links to dangerous websites.
How to Protect Children and Teens Against Online Scams
There's no totally watertight way to prevent your children from encountering Internet scams but positive actions can both cut risks and educate them about the dangers. Here are some approaches.
- Talk. Having a dialog with kids about online scam risks is the single most important thing you can do. Of course, it's not always that easy, given the way they may regard your advice and opinions. Don't use threats or over-the-top scare tactics and look for real-life examples as learning opportunities. Focus on social media risks, the hazards of "sexting," imposters, fake news, videos, and websites.
- Agree. Listen to their views and use them as a foundation for a family contract on acceptable usage. Highlight the sort of risks we have outlined above and then have a family contract on what is acceptable. This should include when and for how long they can be online and information that's okay to disclose.
- Monitor. This can be tough, especially with teens. You can't be looking over their shoulder all the time. If you do, it'll destroy their trust. These days, many devices and apps offer the ability to limit time and site access. Use them. There are a few apps that effectively spy on activities. If you must, go down this route with extreme caution and by agreement with your kids.
- Observe. Look for changes in their behavior -- perhaps signs of worrying, secrecy, need for money, or aggression. Listen for names or other information you're not familiar with. Sit down and talk.
- Limit. Don't allow your children, whatever their age, to have unlimited access to money or payment cards. Depending on their age, you might allow them to spend only with your permission. Again, this should form part of your family contract.
- Secure. Make sure all devices have up to date security protection, especially your home network and equipment linked to it. Explain the importance of strong and multiple passwords, the dangers of phishing, and providing information about themselves on social media. Explain why they should use lock screen and shouldn't leave their phones and laptops unattended.
- Encourage. Stress the importance of openness. Let your kids know that everyone is vulnerable to scams and that they should tell you about their experiences without fear of punishment.
- Review. Unfortunately, you can't just have a discussion and family agreement and leave it at that. It's important to keep the dialog ongoing. Keep track of changing risks and technology and make it a point of conversation. Perhaps widen some of the boundaries you've previously agreed as they get older and show more responsibility.
Also, check out earlier Scambusters issues covering kids online: Teach Your Children To Recognize and Avoid Internet Scams, Latest Guidance for Keeping Kids Safe Online, and Kids' Scams: The Good, the Bad and the In-Between.
This Week's Scam Alerts
- You get a call from your bank saying someone tried to transfer money from your account using the money app Zelle. The payment has been frozen, they say, and to correct it you need to open a new Zelle account and transfer your money "back." Don't. Just don't. Call your bank instead.
- Ransomware scammers have stepped up their game against small businesses. After a system is infected, they threaten victims that if they don't pay, they'll destroy their Internet accessibility by launching a bombardment of messages. This could mean that even having a backup won't get you back in business. Stop it before it starts. Make sure you and your employees know how to detect ransomware.
- Acute labor shortages may be driving up wages but don't be tempted by the offer of a $100,000 pay-packet for driving an airport shuttle bus. Ads for this are popping up on social media as part of a new surge in phony job offers. Continue scrolling -- and, if you're job hunting, be on your guard.
- Got a message from PayPal stating there are one or more invoices waiting to be paid on your account? The notification is genuine but the invoice is a scam, sent from within the PayPal system. If you don't recognize it, don't pay. And don't click on the "View and Pay Invoice" button, no matter what, or your money will be gone. Go to Paypal.com and sort things out from there.
Time to close today, but we'll be back next week with another issue. See you then!