In Education, Family Support, Jr & High School

Kim Komando tells you about scammers who are targeting kids and teens right now.

Kim Komando,

What comes to mind when you think of someone getting scammed? A grandma on the phone with some jerk? If so, this will probably surprise you.

The total money lost by teens in online scams grew by nearly 2,500% between 2017 and 2022. Victims under the age of 20 lost a staggering $210 million in 2022 alone.

Educating our kiddos on red flags is the first step in keeping them from becoming victims. That’s why I’m telling you about the scams and hacks targeting kids and teens right now.

‘Send me a pic’

Sextortion scams increased an alarming 20% between October 2022 and March 2023. Scammers used to target adults, but teen boys have become their latest focus.

Common tactics:

  • Scammers create fake social media and gaming accounts, posing as an attractive young girl.
  • They start talking to a teen boy, send over some pics, and then they ask for nude photos or videos in return.
  • If the victim sends one, the scammers demand a payout and threaten to post the incriminating photo or video for all their friends and family to see if they don’t pay.

The threat of exposure causes major panic, and many kids try to make the payments. I interviewed a lawmaker who lost his son to a scam like this. The teen was so overwhelmed he took his own life. Awful.

Game over

Roblox and Fortnite are household names among both kids and cybercriminals. Both platforms have their own in-game currency, which requires a credit card and personal information tied to the account.

Common tactics:

  • Apps and sites may promise to pay out in-game currency in exchange for clicking on bogus ads. Spoiler: The ads contain malware that helps crooks hack into the account.
  • Fake websites often claim to sell in-game currency. Many look real enough to fool kids and adults.

Brand bandits

Today’s teens look at social media influencing as a potential career path. Who wouldn’t want to make money just for posting online?

Common tactics:

  • In an influencer scam, crooks pose as real brands and reach out to teens with promises of cash or gifts.
  • They’ll send a message claiming they love the victim’s account and they’re an excellent match for their brand — as long as they buy a few things upfront to get started. Yeah, it’s all a con.

Safety first

It’s a scary digital world out there, and I want your whole family to navigate it safely. These tips will help keep your kids safe from scammers:

  • Have regular conversations about online dangers. Let your kids know they can always come to you with a shady situation.
  • Use a password manager on family smartphones and computers, and enable two-factor authentication on the apps your kids use regularly.
  • Make sure your kids’ social media profiles are private. The more info scammers have, the better for them.
  • Have your teen’s phone set up to block unknown callers and/or send them straight to voicemail.
  • For games with in-game currency, use a re-loadable gift card instead of your credit card. Bonus: They can’t spend endlessly.

🤝 Know someone who needs this info? Use the icons below to share it. Let’s make this world and our families safer together!

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