Protecting Kids from Online Scammers
Younger and younger children are active online these days, which means more victims for online scammers. These scammers are looking to steal your child's personal information, their money, and even their innocence. Talk with your children about safety online and teach them how to recognize a scam. Here are a few scams to discuss:
1. You can be a model or an actor! This is one of the ways that traffickers find victims online. It starts with a comment on your child's online photo "Wow, you're so beautiful, has anyone ever told you you could be a model?" or the dance video they posted on YouTube "You've got great rhythm, have you ever danced professionally?" Your child will be flattered and the trafficker will hook them with an opportunity for fame and fortune. Often traffickers have legitimate looking websites for their modeling business or production company; sometimes they will use a legitimate business as a cover for their trafficking operation. Teach your child that any truly legitimate, successful modeling agent or producer has a formal process for recruiting and screening talent, and it doesn't include spending time trolling Instagram and YouTube.
2. You've won a prize! Because they set up so many profiles and download so many apps, kids will be bombarded with emails and text messages from scammers who are trying to get their personal information. Often, they are selling the information to marketers which means that your child will receive even more emails and texts. Sometimes it's more sinister and it involves monetary theft or identity theft. Talk with your kids about this and tell them they should never fall for a contest that asks them to complete an online form to enter or to collect their winnings and they should never believe a contest that asks them to pay money up front. Teach them about guarding their social security number fiercely and never providing it to anyone.
3. Link your account for easy access: Many app producers are singularly focused on gathering your child's data. When your child downloads an app and goes to set up the profile, the app may give them an option to "Login using Instagram" or "Login using Google." Once the app is connected to your child's other account, the app is able to collect data from that account. This can include contacts (your child's friends and followers), photos, personal information, and usage data. Teach your kids to beware of this trap and to set up individual profiles on every app they use. Connecting accounts may be convenient, but it can also compromise your child's private information.
4. I know you watched online porn: Sadly, a lot of people (including kids) access online pornography. This scam involves someone sending an email that says something like "you clicked a link on that porn site and it gave me access to your computer." The scammer then says that they have copied the pornographic data that was viewed/downloaded and they're going to share it with (boss/social media friends/police, etc.) unless you wired $5,000 bitcoin to them by a certain date. Adults are falling for this scam, and children certainly will if no one tells them about it. Here are some details about it from the FTC.
5. Your account has been compromised: An email or text message will arrive from a legitimate looking source (like your bank or a social media provider). This message will tell you that they've had a data breach or they've flagged some suspicious behavior on your account and they're going to shut it down unless they hear from you. It will provide a link or a phone number to call. When you click or call, you'll be asked to provide a bunch of your personal information to "verify" your account. These are typically identity thieves. If your child receives a message like this, tell them to never click the link or call the number provided…tell them to go into the company's real website and inquire from there.
These are just a few of the many scams your child may encounter. Teach them to second guess any email/text/pop-up ad, etc. that seems too good to be true, or that asks them to provide personal information.