I am a professional counsellor, and I specialise in working with children and teenagers. More often, children see me on issues related to stress, anger, anxiety, self-esteem, and self-confidence...these are actually expected in this life stage, as they develop and learn to become mature and independent adults.
However, in recent years, more and more children are coming to see me related to scams, especially online scams. The children are aged between 9 to 18 years old. In fact, this has been a rising trend since 2018. Amongst the young clients that I see, about 6 in 10 have fallen victims to scams on social media, gaming and messaging platforms. This is a concern because the consequence is more than just losing money. In some severe cases, the victims, especially teenagers, were also psychologically affected as a result of the negative experience; resulting in stress, anxiety, anger, loss of self-confidence. There were also cases of fall-out with friends and family members due to disputes over monetary loss and breach of trust. Scams can occur anywhere. On e-commerce platforms such as Carousell; social media such as Instagram, Facebook; messaging platforms such as Discord, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and more. Our children live in the digital world, and we probably will never be able to stop scams. However, we can help our children protect themselves, by learning how to identify potential scams. These are important skills they must learn to keep themselves safe.
In this article, I will be sharing with you some tips that you can teach your children to prevent themselves from becoming victims of scams.
How children and teenagers are scammed
Social media, Messaging platforms, Online gaming. These are where our children and teenagers frequently interact. With digitalisation, the friendship circle has become bigger, and further, extending beyond the immediate environment. The definition of making connections has also changed tremendously. New connections can now be easily established by simply subscribing to an YouTuber's channel, following a Tik-Toker, or an Instagram account; joining chat groups in Discord, or gaming servers; or when trying to make purchases on e-commerce platforms. It is very common to receive friends requests, invitations to join a channel or chat groups; and to accept the invitations. More often than not, they connect without prior acquaintance. Amongst the new connections, some are befriending the children with ill intentions. Usually these start off as simple chats or comments on social media posts, or talks about the games that they are playing together, or their common interests. Once sufficient trust is gained, scammers start to make their moves. Taking advantage on the children's innocence and trust in them, scammers entice them into traps, by selling items at a price lower than the market. Here's some examples.
Sale of fake gift cards (e.g. Google Play, Spotify)
Sale of gaming accounts, ranging from SGD15 to SGD1000
Top-up of gaming credits (e.g. Robux, V-bucks)
Trading of gaming items (e.g. Adopt Me, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang)
Most of the time, these children and teenagers fell for the offers, because they were not guarded. They thought that they can trust the new friends they just made.
So, how can adults help. Here's the tips to try.
Tip #1 - Do I know this person
Ask your child if they know the person attempting to trade or sell to them. If the answer yes, the next question to ask is how long have I known this person, and what do I know about him/her. In the event of being cheated, is there a way to identify and locate this person - valid phone number, email addresses, physical address etc . If the answer is no, take precautions. Look out for reviews.
Tip #2 - How many reviews does the seller has
Studying reviews can be a helpful method to assess how credible the seller is. The higher the number of reviews, the higher the chances of the seller being authentic.
Tip #3 - How often these reviews are being posted
Though many reviews are indicative of a seller's authenticity, reviews that are posted at close intervals daily may be dubious. In a case involving the sale of gaming gift cards, there were already 25 ratings, with little written reviews posted over a span of 1 day. This is a potential red flag. Compared to another sale post with 200 reviews over a span of a few months, the latter may look more credible.
Tip #4 - How cheap is the sale
To attract buyers, scammers typically offer their items at a much lower price than the market price, especially for children and teenagers who do not have earning power yet. For example, a top-up of 1000 Fortnite V-bucks (money in Fortnite) usually costs about SGD11.90. If a seller is selling the same product for only SGD8, it is time to be careful, and ponder "why the seller wants to sell at a loss?"
Tip #5 - Mode of Payment
In addition, look out for the mode of payment. Scammers like to request for bank transfers, or payment via PayLah or PayNow (in Singapore). As children (in Singapore) can also be PayLah account holders, they have become easy targets for scammers. Typically, once payment is made, the seller disappears. Some may receive a redemption code, but which is unfortunately invalid, or expired.
Tip #6 - When in doubt, always ask
Teach our children to ask whenever they are unsure. Talk to them. Find out what they like and what they play or do, and who they interact with. Share with them stories about scams and how they can prevent themselves from falling into the same traps. Discuss and rehearse safety plans.
I hope these simple, quick tips are helpful. In you need more assistance, contact us for Parenting Consultation at: +65 9631 7316, or email us at: email@example.com. We also offer Counselling Services for Children and Youths and Adults; Stress and Anxiety Therapy.