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Losses to online fraud among young people escalates

Today online predators have relatively easier access to vulnerable groups like young people.

Young man playing a video game. Image by Vadermonk - (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Young man playing a video game. Image by Vadermonk - (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Autumn is upon us and children have returned to school. The weather may be changing yet some things remain constant and one of these factors is the ever present cybersecurity threat. To emphasis this, a new study found the youth in the U.S. lost a record $210 million to online scams last year.

This level of losses is up 2,500 percent since 2017. This represents the largest increase in money for any age group.

Many adults were taught about “stranger danger” as children and told never to get into a random vehicle. This does not easily translate to the digital world. In today’s technologically-led world, online predators have relatively easier access to vulnerable groups like young people. Scams that prey on young people’s insecurity and naiveté can lead to financial losses, physical harm and suicide.

Social Catfish – which is a reverse search technology company – has released a study on the State of Internet Scams 2023 using 2023 data from the FBI IC3 and FTC.

“The rate at which young people are being scammed is alarming,” Social Catfish Co-Founder David McClellan says in a statement.

McClellan  continues: “As a father of two, I am passionate about keeping kids safe online and it is incumbent on parents to spend more time discussing online safety with their children.”

McClellan goes on to detail three different forms of online scams that parents should know all about.

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 substantial unauthorized purchases and be tricked into sharing their parents’ credit card information.

How to Avoid: Parents should enable parental controls to stop in-app purchases without their approval.

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 or may engage in ‘sextortion’ by requesting a sexy selfie and then threatening to release the photo 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 photos to anyone you do not know.

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 are asked to click a link to receive the prize. These are phishing links which gives the scammer all the personal information and login credentials they need to commit identity theft.

How to Avoid: Fake social media accounts have very few followers. Never click on random links or send money or personal information to a celebrity online.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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