There has been a major spike in scammers targeting underage victims, new data has revealed.
Westpac research has found the number of Australians aged under 18 reporting scams has nearly quadrupled over the past year.
Experts hold particularly grave concerns over the growing number of “sextortion” scams despite buying and selling scams still constituting the most common form of online theft among the demographic.
Westpac financial crime and fraud protection general manager Chris Wittingham said scammers often tricked youngsters into sending “compromising information” online that was then used as blackmail.
“Scammers prey on the fact young people spend lots of time on social media platforms and create fake accounts to pose as teenagers themselves,” he said.
“They often build trust over time, allowing them to gather more information about their victim or gain access to personal content.”
Mr Wittingham said more awareness was needed over the dangers of sharing personal information publicly online that could then be used by scammers to piece together people’s identities.
Information such as a person’s educational institution, suburb or sports club can all be used to trick them into believing a scammer is trustworthy.
“Always stop and think before you post, be very cautious of anyone you’ve never seen in-person or spoken to on video chat before and never give away details like your address or date of birth,” he said.
During National Child Protection Week, running from September 3-9, Westpac is hoping to raise awareness of the most common types of scams impacting young people.
The most common is buying and selling scams, followed by threat and penalty scams, where a scammer threatens a person with some type of harm to try to force them to hand over money or personal information.
The third most common type is impersonation scams, where a scammer poses as a business or individual to try to steal personal information or funds.
Job scams and investment scams are next, where criminals often pose as well-known businesses or government organisations.
Mr Wittingham said scams were becoming increasingly common within online marketplaces where criminals post fake items that are in high demand, such as concert tickets.
“You should always conduct an independent search through your web browser to confirm if a business is legitimate before making a payment, especially if it’s a brand you’ve never bought anything from before,” he said.
“Also be wary if they request payment through unusual methods like cryptocurrency.”
This new data comes as experts renew calls for parents to talk to their children about staying safe online.
Westpac urges young people to refrain from accepting random friend requests, consider how much personal information they share online, and check the legitimacy of online businesses and payment methods.