Covid 19 coronavirus Delta outbreak lockdown: Fake influencer scammers target children

Scammers pretending to be a popular Kiwi social media influencer are targeting children during lockdown by private messaging them, claiming they have won a prize.

On Thursday, an 11-year-old Waiuku girl was on Instagram when she was approached in aprivate message by an account pretending to be popular Kiwi influencer Judah.

In a private message to the 11-year-old, the fake page claims the young girl has won a pair of Air Jordan shoes or $250.

The scammers then tell their potential victims to register and “put in your credit card details to claim your prize”.

The Waiuku girl’s mum, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Herald alarm bells started ringing very quickly.

“She called me on my walk and said mum, I’ve won a prize. She was really excited so the first thought was if it is real we need to speak to them over the phone.

“I thought she had entered a competition but she had not. She was the one who had been approached.

“I had to get home and explain I wouldn’t be giving my credit card to anyone.”

Despite being excited about the potential of winning a prize, the 11-year-old did the right thing by telling her mum about what the scammers were asking for.

“They told me I had won a prize and I was pretty happy. They kept telling I had to register [to claim the prize],” the 11-year-old said.

“But mum was suspicious about it so we asked them for their phone number because we didn’t know a lot about it. I asked them for their phone number because I wanted to know if it was real and they said ‘yeah it’s legit’.

“But when I asked for their number again they stopped messaging me back.”

The fake account has a link that takes you to a website where it says:

“Register your name now to receive gifts from me. Prizes will be shipped within ???? minutes after registration is complete.

“Prizes can only be processed if the person selected as the winner has completed registration first. It is official and you cannot make this gift without registering. This event is sponsored by several movies. Follow the registration process.”

The regisrator asks you to register your name, complete all the fields correctly, including your credit card details, and to wait 5 to 45 minutes before sending the gift.

It is not known how many people have fallen for the scam.

The fake account was created after the real Instagrammer Judah initially had planned a giveaway for August 29.

The 11-year-old’s mum said lockdown was just another opportunity for scammers to target children.

“It [lockdown] the perfect chance to target these kids. They’re more into being online these days.

“This had nothing to do with Judah. They’re just using all her images to con people.”

Netsafe senior communications manager Angela Boundy told the Herald scammers regularly target younger social media users.

She also confirmed the reporting of scammers dramatically rises during lockdowns.

“Netsafe hasn’t had any reports about this particular scam although we do regularly receive similar reports about NZ social media influencers and brands being impersonated online in order to promote fake giveaways.

“Scammers don’t discriminate by age so we do see reports where children and young people have been targeted by online shopping scams. These reports normally relate to high-ticket items such as technology or clothing from private sellers on different platforms and the sellers will generally disappear once a payment is sent via bank transfer.

“Our data from lockdown in 2020 shows online harm and demand for all of Netsafe’s services increased.

“When the lockdown period was compared to the same time in 2019, it was found scam reports were up 74 per cent, sextortion reports grew by 35 per cent, romance scams went up 69 per cent, intimidation 45 per cent and the supply and distribution of objectionable material 66 per cent.”

Judah’s manager told the Herald she was aware of scammers using her images, but says there’s not a lot they can do.

“We do put stories up acknowledging these accounts but there is only so much we can do.

“This has been happening a lot recently. We advise anyone not to put credit card details anywhere.”

HOW TO KEEP SAFE ONLINE – NETSAFE

As people will be spending more time online during lockdown, it’s likely the community will be more exposed to scammers. This will be reinforced as people rely more on online services and legitimate businesses change how they interact with their customers during lockdown.

Scammers are opportunistic in nature and will likely take advantage of people’s trusting nature. It will be plausible that shipping is delayed, that additional paperwork is required because of lockdown restrictions, or that a “person” may not be contactable.

Netsafe’s tips to avoid being scammed are:

1. Verify contact is legitimate through a different channel like your own independent Google search.

2. Criminals are harvesting personal information. Stop and think carefully about the details you’re disclosing or whether they need to entered online.

3. If you’re unsure of something, take the time to talk the situation out with a trusted friend, family member, or Netsafe.

4. Once you are aware you are talking with a scammer, stop engaging with them.

5. Report the scammer to the platform, where applicable, or let Netsafe know so we can help educate the communication.

• If you think you’ve shared financial details, please contact your bank so they can assist you. If you’ve shared personal details, iDCare (https://www.idcare.org) will be able advise you how to reduce the risk of identity theft.

• Visit netsafe.org.nz/advice/scams for more information and advice.


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