Australian Federal Police have issued a warning to single parents that child sex offenders are targeting their pictures and information on dating apps and social media platforms.
AFP Assistant Commissioner Justine Gough said users of dating apps who had listed themselves as single parents were particularly vulnerable, with many unaware their locations could be found easily.
Ms Gough urged social media users to “pause before they post” as part of a new campaign designed to protect Australians online.
“We know child sex offenders have looked for victims by targeting single parents on dating websites,” she said.
“We are also urging all parents to think twice about posting photographs of their kids. Some platforms do not automatically remove geolocation data from images taken on mobile phones, allowing for identification of where you work, your home address or other private locations.”
AFP are pleading with Australians to review their location, privacy settings and parental controls across all platforms.
Online users should turn off location settings, such as GPS, when unnecessary as well as ensure privacy settings are secure – or set to “friends only” or “private”.
“You wouldn’t walk up to a stranger and let them know your security clearance or that you work in payroll in your organisation,” Ms Gough said.
“You wouldn’t give a stranger your phone number, your date of birth or provide them with a photo album of your children.
“But too many Australians are essentially doing this by posting this information online and not turning on strict privacy controls. Pause before you post. Ask yourself, ‘Do you really need to reveal your personal details’?”
AFP says cyber criminals have been posing as employers or recruiters to groom victims into divulging what access or knowledge they have within an organisation.
Financial security is also a concern.
“Criminals are harvesting information, stealing identities and then stealing victims’ money or taking out credit cards in victims’ names,” Ms Gough said.
“In some cases, criminals have been able to obtain personal information and access financial accounts.
“People who are selling second-hand goods on websites and provide their mobile phone number can leave themselves vulnerable to phishing attacks.
“Personal information is a valued commodity for criminals, who can sell this on to others in forums on the dark web.”