Social Engineering: How Hackers Use Children to Clear Parents' Bank Accounts

A hacker wearing a hoodie operates a computer
A hacker wearing a hoodie operates a computer

Hackers and online scammers have found new ways of targeting their victims without directly approaching them.

Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) Acting Director for Cybersecurity, Vincent Ngundi, noted that scammers had resulted in tactics such as social engineering targeting children instead.

Speaking during an interview on Spice FM on Tuesday, February 7, the CA boss revealed that social engineering was one of the major threats in cyber security globally.

In the new move, he stated that scammers often groomed children over a period of time after gaining their trust before coercing them to give details of their parent's credit cards.

A sillhoute of a hacker using a computer.jpg
A silhouette of a hacker using a computer on March 13, 2018.

"One of the most prevalent threats is usually social engineering where you try and get personal information from children. 

"It could be where they live, the identity of the parents or could be directions to pick credit cards and send the details," he stated.

Additionally, it was noted that the individuals applying these tactics would take time to gain the confidence of the children through personalised and positive messaging.

On her part, Mercy Mutemi - an advocate of the High Court added that the same grooming was being done by other individuals luring children into relationships.

"It starts with direct messaging (DMs) with messages like 'you look nice in this picture'. They have a long game plan where they gain trust over time.

"If you chat with a person for three years, it is very difficult to believe that they would want to harm you especially if they tell you to work hard in school or tell you to respect your parents," she explained.

Therefore, parents were encouraged to monitor their children's use of the internet and who they were talking to on social media platforms.

The guardians were also urged to train themselves on new technologies on the internet to be at par with the development in the sector.

"We want our children to be on Tik Tok but we do not understand how algorithms work and what kind of filters they should put on their phones. Parents have to really educate themselves so that they can help their children.

"The monitoring also never works because when they realise you are monitoring them, they become smarter," Mutemi advised.

A 2021 report by INTERPOL, United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the global ECPAT network revealed that 67 per cent of children ranged between 12 - 17 years were active internet users.

The report noted that sexual exploitation was the biggest threat children were facing on the internet.

"7 per cent had been offered money or gifts in return for sexual images or videos of themselves and 3 per cent had been threatened or blackmailed online to engage in sexual activities in the past year.

"Threats and requests like these are made to both boys and girls, often via social media," read the report in part.

An image of social media icons on a mobile phone.
An image of social media icons on display on a mobile phone.
Anadolu Agency
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