A new playground
The act of fraud, or tricking another person out of their money, has been around for centuries. The difference is that the internet is a relatively recent invention, so it’s a whole new playground for fraudsters. Ofcom research shows that 97% of 12- to 15-year-olds have a mobile phone, and 89% have their own social media profile, it’s no wonder that parents of teens are concerned.
The good news is that most teenagers are wiser than we realise, and becoming more so with each passing year. However, where there is money there will always be new types of fraud.
To help your teen be a savvy online surfer, you could start by equipping yourself with key information and terminology that you can pass on to your child.
Common frauds and scams
Here is a list of the most common ways criminals obtain our personal details in order to commit online fraud:
Phishing, smishing and vishing – you’ve probably heard of ‘phishing’, where scammers send emails that are designed to look like official correspondence from organisations such as your bank or HMRC. They want to trick you into sharing personal details by clicking on links asking you to log into fake sites so they can steal your passwords and information.
‘Smishing’ is the text message equivalent of phishing, and ‘vishing’ is where you get a phone call or automated voice call from a scammer. You might get a message claiming you’ve got a parcel and you need to visit a website to pay a shipping fee or asking you to authorise or cancel a payment you know nothing about. Before you click on any link, or give away any personal information, ask yourself “could this be a scam?”.
There has been an increase in malicious links and files distributed by SMS recently, so if you’re not sure, search online to check if it’s a known campaign, and don’t click on any links until you’ve checked it is safe to do so. Scammers go to great lengths to make things look like official messages from banks, service providers, and even HMRC, so you need to be very careful.
Fake news – scammers use fake news to ‘bait’ people into clicking through to a website, where they will earn revenue via ‘click throughs’. However, some fake news may lead to a site with a computer virus to steal personal information.
Hacking – hackers use weaknesses in computer security to hack into personal computer files.
Malware – the most common way that you might be affected by malware is by using gaming and streaming sites. It’s designed to cause harm to your computer in some way, usually by spreading viruses, causing errors or slowing it down.
Spyware – a specific type of Malware that spies on your online activity with the sole aim of acquiring personal information such as usernames and passwords.
Social media sites – fraudsters harvest personal information posted publicly on these sites or may request access to photos, contacts and personal information via apps or in return for the chance to win prizes.
Prize draws – a notification arrives by email, text or in the post, telling the receiver that they’ve won a prize, and to send a small amount of money, or to provide bank details or prove their identity to claim the ‘prize’. Alternatively, they might be told to ring a number to claim the prize and this will be a premium number.
Rummaging through the rubbish – thieves and fraudsters will look for items containing personal information to use to steal identities.