There have been some pretty concerning stories in the news over the past couple of weeks which have brought to light the potential dangers an individual – adult or child – can encounter when online.

The first of these we came across was an article explaining how an investment scam on Instagram had targeted the Social Media platforms users and successfully managed to con an average of £8,900 from each of its victims.

The victims are believed to all be in their 20’s, and Action Fraud UK have advised that there is a growing number of these ‘get-rich-quick’ schemes present on the internet, which are conning more and more people each month. These schemes promote that by making a one-off payment, the individual will then start to see returns on their money within a day, however, their money is taken and then these fraudsters suddenly disappear.

Paul Carroll from Action Fraud UK has warned of the dangers “unsuspecting victims” can come across on Social Media platforms from “opportunistic fraudsters.” He advised that people never send money to strangers who they have met/encountered online and to only ever deal with any financial firm who is properly regulated – under the Financial Conduct Authority – to avoid falling victim to such scams.

The second story dominating the news – and the most worrying – is that of the ‘Momo Challenge’ which targets children via Social Media. A doll, which is quite scary looking to those of a younger age, encourages children to add a contact on WhatsApp, which, in turn, sees the child then spammed with dares and violent unsuitable images. At first the child will be encouraged to carry out some self-harming, then ultimately, to take their own lives.

This has quite obviously caused uproar with parents and Social Media users alike, however, police have advised that the doll is actually a front for hackers who are collecting information. No matter what the actual intention may be of the challenge, the fact that young children are seeing their family threatened if they do not carry out the dares sent to them is highly worrying and a huge cause for concern around children having access to Social Media.

Both stories are worrying, and it becomes a huge concern when people’s safety – in this case children’s – is put at risk by them using online platforms. This is why it is so important to always ensure you are carrying out actions to keep yourself safe online, and also, if you are a parent, always know what your child is doing whilst using these platforms and the Internet as a whole.

Personal information should never be given to anyone you meet online, and if you are going to use a business online for a particular service, then always ensure you do your research and find out whether they are fully regulated and insured; if they are, then this information should be being made available by them on their website. If you come across posts that look too good to be true on Social Media – such as deposit an initial £500 to start your own business and by a weeks-time you will have thousands – then they usually always are too good to be true; don’t fall victim to them.

When, or whether, to allow our children to use Social Media is often a difficult decision to make, and with horror stories such as this being told, many parents are simply banning the use of the platforms for their children. If your child uses the Internet then always ensure parental controls are turned on, however, these cannot protect your child fully when it comes to Social Media, so monitoring their use on these platforms is a good idea too. If after using Social Media or the Internet your child seems to be acting secretive, angry, upset, or agitated, then this may be a sign that something is not right. Also, children who turn off or hide screens when approached may be looking at something inappropriate or being targeted by schemes such as the ‘Momo Challenge’ and attempting to hide this as they have been threatened if they inform their parents. Always keep a check on your children when they are online and checking Internet history or Social Media accounts allows you to see exactly what they have been up to.

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