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How to protect your children from online gaming fraud

Online gaming fraud targeting children and teens is a growing concern, and it's important to educate them on how to protect themselves.

Online gaming fraud is a growing concern, with children and teens being the most vulnerable targets. As the popularity of online gaming continues to increase, so does the risk of fraud, with scammers using various tactics to trick players into giving up their personal information and money.

From fake in-game purchases to phishing scams, it’s important to educate young gamers and their guardians on how to protect themselves while enjoying their favourite online games.

MySociaLife founder, Dean McCoubrey, unpacks the recent increase in children falling victim to online gaming fraud and what parents can do about it. He details everything you need to know to protect your child and ensure their games stay a safe and fun space for them to explore.

1. What are the dangers of letting your children game unsupervised?

Many adults (who don’t game) see it as child’s play, a space where teens and pre-teens spend their time. They also overlook that girls are increasingly keen gamers too. However, they fail to see the extent of adult players and the sheer size of the e-sports industry.

For this reason, children who game unsupervised are roaming these spaces among adults with various motivations — some gamers just want to game, while others want to make contact, ask for images, verbally abuse, or defraud.

When we understand the diversity of users on social media and games and consider why they might be on the platform, we can immediately be more security conscious.

2. Why are more children falling victim to gaming fraud?

The pandemic saw more people stuck indoors or at home and an increase in screen time. This drew more people to online entertainment and escapism during a tough time around the world. In addition, younger children have been accessing games and social media — the barriers came down a little, to some degree.

These factors mean that, yes, more children (teens and pre-teens) are experiencing more online safety issues, not just fraud, than pre-pandemic. Education hasn’t caught up with the tools to inform learners of the wide array of risks and safety tools that need to be employed.

3. What are the most common ways in which children fall victim to online gaming fraud?

Gamers are attracted to mods, skins, weapons, and tokens to improve their gameplay. It’s more interesting, it’s cooler, and it’s more powerful for the gamer which makes it an attractive proposition.

Fraudsters use the clickbait of an amazing offer to get you to click and buy something, leaving the game and sharing your bank card details. Or adding a username and password to a website that looks slick but is really just a ‘front’ to trick you into revealing your valuable password — one that might also open your other accounts like social media.

If the fraudster takes over your gaming or social accounts, you can then be bribed to get them back, or they can damage your reputation by using the account to post negative content while still in your name.

4. Tips to prevent children from falling victim to online gaming fraud

  1. Don’t click on links in emails that get sent to you. Spam has become very good at looking real. It’s hard to detect so exercise hyper caution as a standard.
  2. Whatever you download could have malware (updates, games, etc.), so be sure you know the source. This will require a number of tests and checks. Not just looking at how the email looks or who it’s from. Only use official websites and not third-party websites when buying or downloading.
  3. If the offer looks too good to be true, it likely isn’t! It’s clickbait!
  4. Use a robust password of at least 12 characters with numbers and punctuation, but don’t make it easy.
  5. Use Two Factor Authentication (2FA) to protect your account. No one should get into your account unless they go through secure gateways — one on a console and one on your phone, for example.
  6. You mostly don’t know who you’re playing with despite what name they use or the avatar on screen. You need to see if the player is indeed someone who is a child on screen, matched to a voice, and then consistently check that the person aligns with your expectationsas a gaming partner for your child (swearing, kindness, etc). In addition, persuading kids to share details or passwords while playing games with them, having built their trust, is a tactic to gain access to gamer accounts.
  7. Use the safety settings offered by the game and work through them slowly. Google the settings if you don’t know how to find them or set them up. Someone will have prepared a settings guide already.
  8. For young kids, chat is not a good option. They should only play the game and enjoy it on those merits ideally, as they are not equipped to recognize the online safety risks.

Conclusion

Beyond fraud, issues like cyberbullying are real and can be just as harmful, although not financially. Privacy and how much data or info you are sharing are equally important – or you can be targeted with content or offers that may be inappropriate, or accounts are created which impersonate you based on how much info you share in public.

 
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