More children are playing games online than ever before, but it’s not all fun and games, and the risks connected to kids and gaming continue to grow.
With over 900,000 games available in app stores, it’s impossible to keep track of the many ways’ users may be vulnerable. Better Business Bureau Northwest and Pacific understands parents want their children to be safe while playing and that many use parental controls. Still, scammers are always finding new ways to get to children.
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 are constantly being offered free online currency by just going to an outside site and giving the username and password or other personal information.
Unfortunately, in many cases there is no free currency and their identity within the game has been hacked. Scammers 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 could leave 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: eg., 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:
• 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.
• Strengthen your password. Creating a strong password and changing passwords regularly can keep you from being hacked by scammers.
• Set boundaries. The online gaming community often opens doors to new friendships with other players, but make sure that you do not exchange personal information with someone online that you do not know.
Along with these tips throughout the month of October, BBB will release cyber safety tips and articles to help consumers and businesses stay vigilant. Articles and a cybersecurity toolkit for small businesses can be found at www.BBB.org/BBBSecure.
Roseann Freitas, Marketplace Manager Hawaii, Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific, Honolulu, can be reached at 260-0643.