Teaching your kids to recognise and avoid online scams

Teaching your kids to recognise and avoid online scams


Gen Z and Gen Alpha are digital natives. They’ve grown up with devices galore, so it's no surprise that they’re tech-savvy and confident online. That said, even the brightest kid or teen is still more trusting than most adults, making them vulnerable to various online scams. So helping kids see how easy it is to fall for scams is an important step towards keeping them safe online.


Action Fraud, Cifas and UK Finance collectively received 822,276 fraud reports in 2019-20, of which 698,934 (85 per cent) were online scams. And Social Catfish found people aged 20 and younger had the fastest scam victim growth rate (156%) of all age groups in 2020. In this age bracket, financial losses to scammers have grown from just over £6.5 million to a whopping £58 million over the last three years.


This means that no matter how smart and internet savvy your child is, they are vulnerable to various cleverly-devised scams designed to target their vulnerabilities and desire to do good.


So what’s the best way to keep kids safe online and help them understand how to protect their money and identity? “It all starts with a conversation,” says Louise Hill, co-founder and COO of GoHenry. "Knowledge is power, and regular discussions around the nature of scams and why teens (and adults) are targeted can help raise awareness of the issue. This means not only talking about how they may be scammed, but bigger issues such as money theft, identity fraud and how others can steal their data."


Clinical psychologist Linda Blair agrees, and told GoHenry, “It’s very important for parents to talk to their children and teens about scams, and to realise that it’s not gullibility that makes kids fall for these con tricks. Mostly it’s impulse control, and the fact older kids have trouble waiting. So a typical teen will read something and instead of thinking they feel compelled to act immediately. As a parent you can help them avoid this by making sure you’re informed about the latest scams and addressing the fact that they need to stop and think if they don’t want someone to take advantage of them.”

Text message scams


According to recent research from WhatsApp, younger age groups are almost ten times more likely to prefer a text-based method of communication to a phone call (89% vs 9%). This reliance on messaging puts them more at risk of text-based scams.


"We are seeing an increasing number of reports of 'friend in need' scams in recent months," says Louise Baxter, Head of the National Trading Standards Scams Team and Friends Against Scams. "Scammers send messages that appear to come from a friend or family member asking for personal information, money, or a six-digit PIN. These scams are particularly cruel as they prey on our kindness and desire to help friends and family."


According to UK Finance more than £1.3bn was stolen by this method last year. Known officially as authorised push payment fraud (APP), victims are tricked into making a payment, usually due to criminals pretending to be from a trusted contact. An estimated £214.8m was stolen using this method in 2021.


In response to this WhatsApp has launched STOP. THINK. CALL. which aims to educate everyone on protecting themselves from message-based scams.

Almost three-fifths of Brits (59%) say they have received a message-based scam in the last year – or know someone who has – so teach your kids that before they respond to a suspicious or unusual message they should:


  • STOP: Take five before you respond. 
  • THINK: Does this request make sense? Are they asking you to share a PIN code they sent you? Are they asking for money? Remember that scammers prey on people's kindness, trust and willingness to help.
  • CALL: Verify that it is your friend or family member by calling them directly or asking them to share a voice note. If it turns out to be untrue, report It to Action Fraud.

Smishing scams


Smishing is when a scammer tries to get a user’s personal or financial information via SMS or instant messaging (on social networks) or a voicemail call by pretending to be a bank or a credit card company or even a delivery service who has a parcel.


Messages can be anything from fake warnings about fraud on your account, to lost passwords, requests for your kid to collaborate with a brand for money, or monetary rewards that urge a user to act quickly. The texts all have a link to a website where you are asked to enter personal or banking details and, to seem more credible, the website often shows the bank or the company logo.


A recent example of this is scammers posing as the NHS, sending texts claiming to offer covid vaccines. The text message includes a blue link, which takes them to a fake webpage with NHS branding. The user is then asked to confirm ownership of the address by providing their bank details.

Again, reinforce the message that your kids should NEVER click on any links or give anyone their personal information in texts, emails and direct messages online.


Offers and prizes scams


Purchase scams – where someone is tricked into buying a product that doesn’t exist – are also common with cases up 18% to 99,733 in 2021, with total losses reaching £64.1m, an increase of 25%.


These scams take the form of social media posts, direct messages, texts and online offers, promising luxury goods like new iPhones, designer items and even VIP tickets to meet someone famous all for amazingly cheap prices. The aim is to entice young people (and adults) to hand over cash, but also to give scammers their personal information. Tell kids that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!


With older teens, warn them to look out for app scams which claim to be able to tell you who has been looking at (or stalking) your social media profile. This scam tends to be attractive for teenagers who want to see how popular they are, but all these apps do is collect personal data by introducing malware (viruses) to harvest personal data.


Cryptoassets and NFT investment scams


Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether and NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are often seen as quick ways to get rich, and due to this, scammers tend to target anyone searching for investments online. Some scammers offer Bitcoin as prizes or high returns for investments, some even provide more realistic returns to lure you in. 


12 ways to avoid falling victim to scams


  1. NEVER hand over your personal details. GoHenry would never ask you to share personal information by direct message, text, WhatsApp or on a phone call.
  2. All official GoHenry emails come from one of our gohenry.com/uk emails, and on a phone call with GoHenry we always take members through security to confirm who they are before dealing with any fraud comments.
  3. Also beware of fraudsters who set-up fake GoHenry accounts on social media. These people then message via DM asking you to do something i.e. provide information or follow a link. We have an official blue tick on all of our social accounts – look for this.
  4. Be careful with any link you're asked to click on in texts and emails, and be wary when asked to give out your personal information. When in doubt, always ignore the link, and go to the official website and log into your account directly through the trusted and official landing page.
  5. Don't download anything from a source you are unsure about.
  6. Avoid retailers/sale sites you are not familiar with, or take time to check out their reviews online before shopping with them.
  7. Look out for texts, emails and social media adverts with spelling mistakes, strange logos and phrases. These tend to be fake. Verified accounts will always have a blue tick.
  8. Be careful about payment: never pay someone you don't know and haven't checked out.
  9. Always try to do a background Google search on companies and people who contact you.
  10. If you're in doubt, don't respond or send any information, even if a message looks like it’s from a friend.
  11. If you're worried about a friend, call to check if they are ok. Don't assume that a message is from them, especially if it sounds strange or unlikely.
  12. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it’s likely to be a scam.

What to do if your child has fallen for a scam


It can be very frightening and upsetting to realise that you have been targeted or scammed. For this reason teens and kids often feel they can't tell you if it’s happened to them. 


So be sure to reassure your kids that no matter what happens they should always tell you as soon as possible if they have handed over information or money.


You can then report all fraud and cybercrime to the police at Action Fraud.


If you are worried that your child has been targeted by scammers, or have concerns about any of the issues mentioned above, please get in touch with us via Live Chat, and we’ll be happy to help. 



Written by Anita Naik Published Jul 21, 2022 ● 5 min read