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Do you want to be my sugar baby?

Updated: Aug 28, 2022

Let's talk about scams targeting our young people.

Have you seen our recent scams campaign? Either on Instagram, Facebook or in adverts around town in collaboration with local community organisations. When I think of ‘scams’, the image of elderly and vulnerable adults come to mind with scammers aiming to clear out their bank accounts. Imagine my surprise when our young trustee commented that our college and younger students are daily targets of scammers and fraudsters on TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and other popular online platforms.

Really, why? It’s not as if our kids have stacks of money sitting in the bank. Yes, scammers want money, but they are also after platform account access, inappropriate photos or relationships. A typical scammer attempts to reset the student’s social media account and then requests the student share a text link. The scammer is initially courteous but increases their urgency and pressure to manipulate hesitant students. Once the link is shared, the scammer gains control and changes the password, locking the student out of their account. And then target their contacts to multiply their reach for increased scams.

Money scams play on vulnerability and inexperience. Students receive flattering messages from company “representatives”. They are asked to become an ambassador for the company, try their products, and then advertise them to others. The catch? They have to send money and personal details, and guess what? The merchandise doesn’t arrive, and their credit card and personal information have been stolen.

More terrifying are inappropriate relationship/content scams. On one end of the spectrum, students are bombarded with adverts to view free age-inappropriate webcams. On the other end, they are offered money for photos of body parts or to be a sugar baby. Some requests seem innocuous. “I’ll pay $300 for photos of your toes.” But these requests can escalate to more intimate demands, perhaps leading to blackmail, shaming and mental anguish.

How do we keep our kids safe?

  • Ensure all social media accounts are private and only friends can send personal messages. Most scams come through as message requests. Snapchat does not have the option for a private account but has parental controls.

  • Talk to your children about these scams and devise a family plan to deal with them.

  • For younger kids, especially, know who they are interacting with online.

  • Search a parent’s guide to [name of app] for safety tips.

Scams are one of many adverse online issues affecting our youth. We are delighted that Digital Waitaha is creating a youth council to focus on solutions for our youth, led by our youth. For more details, if you have questions or are keen to get a young person’s perspective, contact Megan at Keep an eye out on our social media for more details on this initiative coming soon.

If you suspect your child has been scammed or inappropriately approached, contact Netsafe at 0508 NETSAFE, or text ‘Netsafe’ to 4282 for more guidance.

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