How to keep your children safe from online scams

7 March 2024

  • It’s a challenge every parent faces, balancing the need to raise a tech-savvy child with making sure they’re safe when banking, browsing and connecting with people online.
  • Understanding the different types of online scams empowers parents to teach their children how to navigate the digital landscape safely.
  • Resources like CommBank’s Kit money app provide valuable tools and guidance for parents striving to keep their children safe online.

When one of Sophie’s online gaming “friends” linked her to a site offering customers twice as many V-Bucks – Fortnite’s in-game currency – for the usual price, the 15-year-old created an account. She gave the requested personal information and her prepaid card number and waited for the currency to arrive.

The money was taken but the V-Bucks never materialised. For the next few weeks, Sophie saw small, unapproved debits being made on her card. She contacted the online friend who’d told her about the special V-Bucks deal but she’d vanished.

“I lost about $200 – money I earned through my part-time job,” says Sophie. “I was nervous about telling Mum and Dad but I was worried that if I didn’t get help, money would just keep disappearing and maybe they’d hack my bank account, too. Mum checked my account was safe and I got a new prepaid card. I still play Fortnite but only with school friends and cousins now.” 

Types of online scams

Stranger danger

The eSafety Commissioner’s office says 81 per cent of children aged eight to 17 have played an online game and, like Sophie, 64 per cent have played a multiplayer game. A little more than half play with people they don’t know. Susan McLean of Cyber Safety Solutions says random online friends can send a link that promises gaming credits but “actually gives the stranger access to the child’s gaming account. They may steal gaming credits or currency or take over the child’s account and demand payment to give them access again,” says McLean.

Gaming currencies are ripe for syndicates creating fake websites that look legitimate, says Paul Litherland, founder of Surf Online Safe. “Children jump online with a prepaid card or with Mum or Dad’s credit card and are promised 2000 V-Bucks instead of 1000. They then get charged but don’t get their V-Bucks.” Talk to your children about these scams and make sure they know that they should never use a debit or credit card in the gaming environment without parental guidance.

Phishing scams

“Phishing is seen frequently in the gaming world, with scammers sending emails or texts to gamers, telling them their accounts will be closed if they don’t hand over personal details, or offering rewards if they disclose their login details. Instead, scammers clean out the accounts,” warns Yish

Koh, managing director of Kit, CommBank’s pocket money and children’s savings app. Learning how to spot a scam can safeguard against data and identity theft, stolen money and reputation damage. Catfishing is another common scam. “The scammer pretends to be someone they’re not, they nurture a relationship with a child over time to gain trust and can then use threats, manipulation or blackmail to get personal information and, potentially, money,” says Koh.

Fake friends

The rising number of young people being “sextorted” is a big concern, says Julie Inman Grant. “Mostly boys and young men are falling victim to offshore criminals posing as attractive young women, often on Snapchat or Instagram,” she says. “Once intimate photos or videos are sent, an aggressive barrage of messages follows with threats to share unless the person pays.” 

“I know of a year 10 boy on Omegle, an online chat platform, who thought he was chatting with a 16-year-old girl from Brazil. She was a 23-year-old scammer from the Philippines,” says Litherland. Omegle matched strangers for one-on-one video chats but closed in November 2023 after allegedly being used by predators. “That teenager spoke with her for 14 minutes before the chat turned sexual. She asked him if he wanted to have fun and he engaged in a sexual way with her on screen. She captured a video, played it back to him and demanded $2000 or the video would be sent to his parents.” If explicit images are shared online without your consent, eSafety can help get them taken down. Screenshot the evidence with the scammer’s social media usernames and bank account details. Report it in the app, block and seek help from

How to teach your children about online safety

When your child is old enough and you’re comfortable with them being online, here are five things you can do to help them learn about online safety.

1. Show your child how you stay safe online

It’s a case of practice what you preach when it comes to cyber security. Be your child’s role model and get them into the habit of following your lead. Show your child how you:

  • Protect your information with passwords. Help them choose a strong, secure password then explain the importance of changing it regularly and why they shouldn’t share it with anyone
  • Add additional security measures (often called two-factor authentication). Where your account is accessed by a password and by entering a verification code often sent to your phone – it’s worth introducing this concept to your child once they understand password security
  • Protect your own identity online. Explain how public social media can be, and the importance of keeping your activity private and only connecting with people you know
  • Online stranger danger. Talk to your child about choosing contacts, accepting requests, chatting online to people and sharing private information. This is a great opportunity to talk about online stranger danger
  • Check and change settings. Explain that apps collect personal data – location, contacts – and send personal data from the phone. Get them into the habit of checking permissions and managing them.

2. Use parental controls

Being aware of your child’s online activity is crucial. If your child uses social networking sites, speak to them about being included in their contacts list so you can see what they’re posting, liking and commenting on. Think seriously about activating parental controls if they’re available – they can filter content, block access altogether, set limits (including payment limits) and restrict the amount of time spent online.

It’s your way to make sure your child isn’t falling into bad habits or being enticed into activities that put them in danger.

3. Browse together

When your child is young, it’s a good idea to go online or use an app together – whether you’ve got parental controls or not. It gives you the chance to demonstrate how to browse and search online as well as explain what your child should do if they stumble upon age inappropriate info (the reality is that’s going to happen at some point).

This gets trickier when your child’s a bit older though. So it’s a good idea to agree as a family when it’s OK to go online or use apps and if you can, it's great to be in the same room as your child during that time. Make sure you respect that rule too – don’t respond to emails or check your phone during family time.

4. Keep software up-to-date

Keeping software updated is something that many parents forget to explain to their children. But this is just as important as warning your child about online stranger danger.

Consider making sure that the device your child uses reminds them to update software rather than relying solely on automatic updates in the background.

5. Knowing what’s safe online

It’s important that your child knows how to check whether a site or an app is ‘safe’. Teach them to:

  • Only download apps from official stores – App Store or Google Play
  • Explain that some apps collect in-app payments and that costs can add up quickly
  • Read user reviews and ratings to see if an app delivers a good experience
  • Look out for secure sites that start with https – there will usually be a padlock and green bar to let you know the website is secure too – especially when they’re paying for things
  • Watch out for cyber-bullying and what to do if it happens to them (or a friend of theirs).

While you’re discussing these important topics, it may be a good opportunity to explain that whatever they write or share online is there for life. It can’t be wiped away, deleted or easily ignored.

Other ways you can protect your children online

  • Know who your children are chatting with online and in games. Remind them to minimise the personal information they share.
  • Play the games your child plays so you understand the environment.
  • Talk to them about who they interact with online and remind them that if someone makes them feel uncomfortable, you won’t stop them from playing the game but you can help them manage that and stay safe.
  • Don’t allow children to have electronic devices in bathrooms or bedrooms.
  • If you give your child an electronic device, set clear rules about how it’s used. 

CommBank’s Kit money app teaches children about being financially safe and savvy online

Kit-commissioned research found that eight in 10 parents believe gamification can improve kids’ financial literacy and 45 per cent of parents think gamified learning can help kids better protect themselves from scams. Kit’s new Money Quests use this kind of learning to teach financial concepts such as setting a smart goal and how to spot a scam. 

Start using Kit

  1. Download the Kit app from the App Store or Google Play Store.
  2. Create a Kit account and add up to five child profiles, each with a prepaid card.
  3. Let your kids learn, earn and save.

Kit is issued by Hay Limited AFSL 515459. PDS and TMD are available at the CommBank website. Please consider the PDS before making a decision about Kit. 

Keen to discover more about online safety for children?

Things you should know

This article was originally published in Brighter magazine

Kit is a brand of CBA New Digital Businesses Pty Ltd ABN 38 633 072 830 trading as HEY KIT. CBA New Digital Businesses Pty Ltd is a wholly owned but non-guaranteed subsidiary of Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124 (CBA). CBA New Digital Businesses Pty Ltd is not an Authorised Deposit-taking Institution for the purposes of the Banking Act 1959 and its obligations do not represent deposits or other liabilities of CBA. CBA New Digital Businesses Pty Ltd has been appointed as authorised representative (001296799) of Hay Limited (ABN 34 629 037 403 AFSL 515459), who is the issuer of the Kit Account and associated Kit Cards. 

This article provides general information of an educational nature only. It does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as personal financial product advice. The views expressed by contributors are their own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of CBA. As the information has been provided without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs, you should, before acting on this information, consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement and Terms and Conditions, and whether the product is appropriate to your circumstances. You should also consider whether seeking independent professional legal, tax and financial advice is necessary. Every effort has been taken to ensure the information was correct as at the time of printing but it may be subject to change. No part of the editorial contents may be reproduced or copied in any form without the prior permission and acknowledgement of CBA.

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