Online Risks Series #7: What is Online Fraud?

When we hear the word fraud, it’s our natural reaction to associate this with crime in physical settings or via ‘cold-callers’, but it is just as prevalent online.

To define it exactly, fraud is the act of deceiving an individual for personal gain, in respect of financial purposes or to steal a person’s data.

Through advances in technology, criminals have further possibilities to commit acts of fraud, and these can be disguised and manufactured in a way which could on the face of it, look perfectly innocent to users.

COVID-19 exploitation

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a focus placed on targeting vulnerable and isolated people with scams and preying on those who need support throughout what is an unprecedented time.

Vulnerable people, whether that be children or individuals who find themselves separated, are coming under increasing fraud attacks from criminals online, with the government and police asking people to remain extremely vigilant.

Desperation forms a large part of the Covid-19 crisis, as businesses struggle to make ends meet, children feel cut off from their friends and families try to keep in touch with loved ones.

As the saying goes, if something seems too good to be true, it often is, and we’d encourage you to preach that message to children who may become potential victims of fraud.

What are the associated dangers?

There are many potential risks attached to fraud, with perhaps the most common of these revolving around monetary yield. Children are often a top target for scammers, due to their innocent and sometimes, naive nature.

It goes without saying that there can be significant financial loss.

Another hot spot for criminals is personal data, which is an avenue to wider gains, such as passwords, dates of birth and National Insurance Numbers.

Learn more about the associated dangers and how to combat these, with our Annual Online Safety Course for Parents and Carers 2019-20, which features an Online Fraud-specific module.

How to spot the signs and advice for parents

The first question to answer is “What might it look like?” An online scam can present itself in a number of ways, with a pop-up, email, text message or fake website all guises one could appear in.

“What might it say?” We’ve found that scams of this nature tend to operate on creating impulses, whether these be positive or negative. Often the content you’ll see will have a message to attract, such as “You’ve won a prize!”, or alternatively, something to scare, such as “Your account has been compromised.”

You can also look out for suspicious email addresses that contain a vast combination of numbers or addresses that you don’t recognise – this is more of a common sense approach to online fraud.

It’s vital to always encourage your child to have secure passwords and never reveal these to anyone. They should always come to you or any other trusted adult with any questions that they might have.

In addition, you can take a proactive approach and install antivirus software to help protect accounts from being compromised.

Find out more

Part of our Annual Online Safety Course for Parents and Carers 2019-20, our module on the subject of Online Fraud offers more important information to help protect your children.

Click here to view our full range of courses which are designed for the whole school community and provide further advice and guidance on online fraud as well as a range of other online harms.

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