It’s that time of year, when moms like me start racking their brain about what to get their kids for Christmas. If your kids are like mine their lists contain a lot of technology, which always makes me sigh. I want them to be excited, but protecting them online seems like my Everest. Okay, maybe a little dramatic, but it is a mountainous chore. My son loves the most popular online games and, knowing his mom works for the BBB, he’s identified some pitfalls all on his own.
One of the main scams aimed at players is offering free, in-game, currency. These scams are suspicious and very common to players on several platforms. Players like my son, are constantly being offered free online currency by just going to an outside site and giving the username and password or other personal information. But in many cases, there is no free currency and the victim’s gamer identity has been hacked. Scammers then use the victim’s account to scam others, like the player’s friends and family.
“One of BBB’s top priorities is educating consumers about protecting their personal information,” said Tyler Andrew President and CEO of BBBNW+P. “We especially want children and their parents to understand the dangers of online gaming.” Along with currency scams, children can be taken advantage of by participating in the social aspect of these games. During their experience exploring these digital worlds, interactions with other players in the unmoderated chat feature leaves younger players exposed to players of all ages.
Like many online multiplayer games, there is little to no control over who is playing. Even though strict chat filters can be activated – blocking inappropriate words and phrases – children are still susceptible to being targeted by online predators. These social games are often used as a platform to lure children away from the game and onto other platforms: i.e. Facebook, Snapchat and even in some cases Skype. Several games appeal to children under 12, easy targets who lack the ability to discriminate between appropriate and inappropriate requests.
Another way scammers target players is by directing them to a link that downloads an executable program (.exe), often advertised as “hacks” or “exploits” onto the user’s computer. When executed, the program injects malicious code into the system to gain information and provide complete control of the user’s desktop. This not only compromises a user’s account but their entire computer. This can include banking data, passwords, and other sensitive information.
With these dangers BBB Northwest & Pacific offers these tips help protect yourself and your children:
• Set boundaries. The online gaming community often opens doors to new friendships with other players, but make sure that you – or your children – do not exchange personal information with someone online that you do not know.
• Strengthen your password. Creating a strong password and changing passwords regularly can keep you from being hacked by scammers.
• Be cautious of links. If an advertisement pops up while playing a game, don’t click on it. If you end up on one of these links, do not enter personal information.
It’s so important as a parent to know all the ways your children may be approached in these games so you can have conversations about it. Then they can be on the look out themselves and hold the power to save the day in real life instead of just in the game.