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As the digital world develops, it becomes more and more part of our daily lives. It makes our lives easier and offers a mine of opportunities, but it also entails significant drawbacks and dangers. As children become more immersed in the online world, their exposure to a variety of threats raises concerns. Online banking scams may not immediately spring to mind as the greatest danger, but they are no exception.

But what is online banking fraud?

The term online banking fraud refers to various malicious activities carried out over the internet to obtain sensitive financial information, to gain unauthorised access to bank accounts or to obtain money from the accounts of victims. The forms of this kind of fraud are constantly developing and changing, and cybercriminals are often able to mislead even cautious adults who have an awareness of danger, let alone children, who, due to their age, lack experience, are curious and have limited judgement.

Children are increasingly affected

Today, an ever increasing number of children have a phone, internet access and an email address, while many now receive their monthly pocket money in their own bank accounts. Children today are digital natives. They learn how to use computers and smart devices extremely quickly, but this speed and inquisitiveness is most of the time not accompanied by awareness.

Children absorb what they can do online and how at the speed of light. For example, they quickly become familiar with links and know that clicking on one will open something. However, they are not aware that that “something” might not always be trusted content. In the background, a malicious spyware program may start downloading and monitoring activity, including online purchases, on the device in order to obtain the child’s banking details; or a link that appears to be pointing to the online bank’s login page may actually be leading to a phishing website that looks the same as the bank’s but where, once the details are entered, they fall into the wrong hands.

What are the typical forms of online financial abuse that children may come across?

One of the most common scams today is when fraudsters pose as bank employees and try to obtain bank card details and/or online banking details over the phone. Children are also prone to such calls because scammers do not usually target a specific potential victim, but frequently dial a random number, which could belong to a child.

Another common ploy used by scammers is to copy emails from banks with astounding accuracy. Such emails are dangerous because at first sight they appear to be deceptively similar to enquiries from official sources, and often only those who know what to look for will find errors. These deceptive emails frequently ask potential victims, including children, to change or confirm their password or data, which can be done via the online banking system. However, the link in the email connects to a fraudulent but seemingly authentic replica of the real online bank’s site, where login details are easily obtained by the criminals.

Apart from the above, scammers can also find potential victims through other fake websites as well as social media and online marketplaces.

What is the solution?

Overall, raising awareness and caution are crucial. As regards online banking fraud in particular, it is important to emphasise to children that banks never ask for personal information and passwords by email or over the phone. Thus, if someone who says they are acting for a bank asks them to give such information, they should be careful and never give it out.

It is important that children learn about the dangers of the internet at an early age. They should be made to understand why they should not share personal information about themselves, including financial information. They must be shown typical phishing attempts and be reminded to be careful when using the internet, as well as being encouraged to be suspicious before providing details or clicking on a link, and to ask for adult help if they are unsure.

But is raising awareness really the solution to everything?

In short, unfortunately not.

There is no doubt that in the long term everyone can benefit the most from being educated to use the internet consciously from a young age. However, today’s digital world and the internet are evolving much faster than we can keep pace with, as are trends and methods of fraud, so it is essential to restrict children also in the area of finance in online space.

If your child has a bank account with an accompanying bank card, set a daily limit. Like this, if something goes wrong, the scammers can only gain access to a limited amount of money. Parents can access their children’s bank accounts and finances at financial institutions, thus they are able to monitor balances and transactions at all times.

Nowadays, many banks offer a feature that allows account holders to restrict the use of their bank card geographically. Often, fraudsters do not operate in Hungary or even in Europe, which means that this feature can help prevent fraud. Also, more and more financial institutions are offering the option of deactivating online shopping, which is also worth considering.

Last but not least, it is important to monitor children’s online activity overall, alongside awareness-raising. The ever more sophisticated threats can often deceive even experienced, prudent adults, making these even more dangerous for children. There are a number of ways of restricting what online content children can and cannot access on their devices.

Restrictions may sound like an extreme solution to many, but children do not need all the contents that are available on the internet as, in many cases, these can do more harm than good. Children need to be made to understand that the restrictions are not directed against them, but rather they are for them. 

16. 11. 2023