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Alarming surge in the number of teens being exploited online



The number of young Australians being targeted by scammers online has surged in the last year, with concerning levels of sextortion taking place, new data suggests.

Statistics released today by Westpac Banks show the number of scams reported by customers under the age of 18 have almost quadrupled since last year, and have more than doubled for those under 30.

The data was concerning and showed a growing trend of scammers using techniques such as sextortion, Westpac General Manager of Financial Crime & Fraud Prevention, Chris Whittingham, said.

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"It's alarming to see such a big spike in the number of scammers tricking young people into sending compromising information online," he said.

"Scammers will then use this information to extort money from the victim, often requesting a number of small payments over a period of time."

Young males are overwhelmingly the most common victims of sextortion scams.

The Westpac data showed there had been a significant increase in threat and penalty scams, with customers under 30 accounting for half of all reported cases, with four in five victims being young males.

Whittingham said scammers were adept at piecing together information young people revealed about themselves on social media.

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"Scammers can use anything you post to piece information together about you – like what school or university you attend, sports you play, or suburb you live in – which they then use to form a connection with you or even impersonate you.

"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," Whittingham said.

Young Australians were also the most likely group to fall victim to buying and selling scams, Whittingham said.

"Buying and selling scams often occur through fake websites or online marketplaces. Scammers entice victims with competitive prices for high demand items like concert tickets or designer clothes," he said.

"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. Also be wary if they request payment through unusual methods like cryptocurrency."

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