This online romance scam is hooking all our kids!

This online romance scam is hooking all our kids!

The Yahoo Boys scams just took it up a notch.

Imagine the scene: Your daughter talking to a boy ON VIDEO. She met him at a party two weeks ago…only the boy is a man and he wasn’t at the party. What is more, is the man isn’t even real!

n a world where technology is advancing faster than you can say ‘reboot’, the rise of “deepfakes” poses a new and significant challenge to our children who are out there, online, looking for fun, connection and dare we say it…love.

At Klikd, we are hearing an increasing number of alarming instances of tweens being hooked into “online romances” using deepfake technology, only to discover that out person they have been video calling is none other than a machine-generated video.

Deepfakes are sophisticated video or audio manipulations that can convincingly make it look like you are talking to a real person, using artificial intelligence and machine learning to alter their faces and voices. This technology is not for the elite techies, it is accessible and easily learnt. Right now ,for many it has turned into a tool for misinformation and a quick road to making money of our susceptible screenagers.

What is the Yahoo Boys Scam and how does it work?

Simply, the Yahoo Boys (thought at the moment to be largely Nigerian men) impersonate someone else during a VIDEO. Ie. they get to pretend to actually LOOK like someone else in real life, NOT JUST IN A PROFILE PIC! The scammer, utilises FACE-SWAPPING TECHNOLOGY TO CREATE A FALSE IDENTITY and engages in a deceptive conversation, ultimately aiming to defraud our children of money, nude images and more money. Known as ROMANCE FRAUD, the threat is real and growing.

Of course, these scams can affect anyone but our children are particularly vulnerable because they want online connection, they fall quickly for people who tell them they are beautiful or smart or talented (Thabo Bester achieved this in buckets with several young women when he met them online, told them how beautiful they were and offered them modelling contracts… only to meet up with them in person and rape them). What’s more is, the tech is so sophisticated, it is often very hard to realise you are interacting with a sophisticated fake instead of a real person.

Specifically, nearly all financial sextortion attacks on minors involve the screenshotting of the victim’s Instagram followers/following lists and using those lists as leverage, threatening to send the victim’s intimate photos to all of their contacts.

Snapchat is most frequently utilised to coerce victims into sending a compromising photo once the attacker has gained the trust of its victims.

Snapchat is the preferred app by criminals because its design features provide a false sense of security to the victim that their photos will disappear and not be screenshot.

Perhaps what concerns us most at KLIKD is that members of the Yahoo Boys Scam are selling photo and video editing skills and entire albums of explicit photographs that can be used to build a convincing persona. Yes, fake IDs and legitimate-looking social media profiles are for sale. So too are scam “scripts”- sometimes a free download, sometimes a hefty price tag is attached.

The Yahoo Boys are sextorting our kids, often driving them towards suicide and self-harming behaviors. Unlike other scams, there is no ring-leader, no governance structure, just organised online clusters mutating their shared advice and online tips.

What should I do?

1. If your child has Instagram and/or TikTok, make sure their account is private (this should be the default setting provided they put in the correct birthdate was used).

2. If your child is on Instagram, TikTok, BeReal, or Snapchat, keep their social media following very small. Remember – every photo published online could potentially be used by online scammers in a deepfake. Remind them that every person following you has access to your photos.

3. As parents we also need to be very careful with the photos we share online.

4. If your child has Instagram, be very careful with what they share in their public profile. Never include their Snapchat profile as Snapchat is the preferred platform for this scam.

5. Digital Literacy: As deepfakes become more common, understanding what deepfakes actually are and how they work is crucial for digital literacy. This knowledge can help children question the authenticity of the surprising or shocking content they see online. The Klikd App for families and Klikd Digital Citizenship Curriculum for Schools teach kids and parents how to manage scams, extortion, creepy people and so many other tricky scenarios that are an inevitable part of the online world.

Parents: sign up for the Klikd App today

What should I say?

1. “Have you heard about deepfakes – can you explain what they are to me. What do you think are some potential positive and negative uses of this technology?”

2. “What do you think about the idea that videos and audio can be changed so convincingly? How does it make you feel about trusting what you see online?”

3. “I read about a group called the Yahoo boys who can now make videos where they can pretend, LIVE, to be someone they are not. That is how sophisticated the deepfake tech is. They are used in scams to trick people into believing they are really in a relationship with someone when that person doesn’t even exist. They can be so convincing you might land up sending them images of yourself or even money. Do you know anyone who fell for a scam like that? How did it play out?”

4. “Do you think there should be laws regulating the use of deepfakes? What kind of rules would you put in place if you were in charge?”

5. “Let’s look at some images of deepfakes together – you guys are so good at recognising them. Please help me to learn how to spot the differences”.

AI is here to stay… what do schools do?

Even if your child doesn’t “use” AI in the way you might think, the influence of AI technology like deepfakes is vast and growing, affecting all aspects of digital consumption and interaction. It’s more crucial than ever to educate and equip our kids with the knowledge and skills to navigate this landscape safely. KLIKD is proud to announce that in addition to our full KLIKD DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP CURRICULUM, we now have a a brand new module on AI: Me, Myself and AI included in our Klikd Digital Citizenship Programme for Schools. This programme, which includes a full curriculum for teachers on everything from sexting, online addiction, digital distraction in the classroom to online bullying, gaming, self-harm, fake news and online predators will now also have a full module dedicated to Artificial Intelligence!

If you would like a demo of the KLIKD DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP PROGRAMME, get in touch with us at info@klikd.co.za or book your demo here.

Stay Connected

Sarah and Pam

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