Hampshire Police Education Team: Important Advice for Schools, Parents and Partners - MOMO Challenge
As part of our commitment to working in partnership with schools, partners and parents, I am sending this email out expeditiously to ensure you are aware of an internet ‘suicide-influencing game’ which has come to my attention called The MOMO Challenge which encourages children to harm themselves and is reported to be linked to several deaths around the world and is now appearing across the UK.
Below is a brief summary of what the MOMO Challenge is and we ask that you share this information among your colleague and parent networks.
With no intention to be condescending, given the horrendous nature of the MOMO challenge, I feel it necessary to advise professionals and parents to seriously consider any decision to raise awareness of it to children and young people as a means to safeguard them, unless necessary; as we know, with all good intentions, drawing attention to it may result in them gravitating towards it.
What is the MOMO Challenge?
Mirroring the ‘Blue Whale’ suicide-game of 2017, The MOMO Challenge is targeted at children and young people through social media by people presenting as MOMO, a terrifying looking doll.
The doll encourages them to add a contact on messaging service WhatsApp from an unknown number, once contact is made, children are subsequently bombarded with terrifying images and messages reportedly ranging from threats and dares which encourage them to self-harm and even commit suicide.
Although known of in other parts of the world since last year, it appears to be making its way across the UK.
MOMO has been associated to multiple platforms used by children including Youtube, Kidstube, Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp.
Police in Northern Ireland have warned parents after a mother reported finding the ‘creepy game’ on her 7 year old daughter’s iPad; they have since posted amessage about the challenge on Facebook, referring to a video of a MOMO interaction in America showing an ‘ominous sounding voice recording’ sent to a child, telling them to use a knife on their own throat – with another making threats against a child’s family if a 'challenge' is not completed, describing it as ‘chilling viewing’.
So far, a 12-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy, both from Colombia, are thought to have killed themselves after taking part in the MOMO challenge. The deaths occurred in September, just 48 hours apart, it was thought that the two knew each other. After the police seized their phones, they said they found messages that were linked to the game.
A concerned British mother spoke to the media last week to highlight that the ‘sick game’ had already spread to Manchester, after her 7yr old son told her that some of his schoolmates told him to look up the MOMO challenge; she went on to say that when they watched the video, the MOMO character told him to tell everyone to be in fear of MOMO or it will kill him in his sleep, causing distress to the boy and his friends.
It is understood the original artwork used by the hackers has been taken from a designer in Japan who has no connection whatsoever with the MOMO challenge.
The Real Motive? Police in Northern Ireland outlined in their statement that they believe the game is being used by hackers seeking and harvesting information, warning that while it is perceived as an horrendous ‘suicide game’ targeting children, likely to get thousands of hits, it ‘misses the bigger picture’. There are now numerous variations and imitators.
NSPCC Response & Advice for Parents: A spokesperson for the NSPCC in Northern Ireland said: "The constantly evolving digital world means a steady influx of new apps and games and can be hard for parents to keep track of. "That's why it's important for parents to talk regularly with children about these apps and games and the potential risks they can be exposed to. "The NSPCC publishes advice and guidance for parents on discussing overall online safety with their children, as well as promoting Net Aware - the UK's only parental guide to social media and gaming apps."
Among the most common signs to watch out for include children who:
If adults are concerned or have any questions on how to approach the subject with their children, they can contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or visit the NSPCC website.
Children who are worried about their activity on apps or online games can contact Childline 24 hours a day, online and over the phone on 0800 1111.
Please contact me if you wish to discuss this article or require any advice.
PC 23162 Carrick
Education & Engagement Coordinator
Local Policing Delivery Unit
Action Fraud have received several reports where fraudsters are claiming to be landlords of properties offered for rent online. Prior to a viewing the suspect requests that the individuals pay a deposit and sometimes a month’s rent upfront, claiming that this money will be put into the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, and is therefore protected under government legislation.
After the individual pays the money, the suspect sends a bogus email purporting to be from the Tenancy Deposit Scheme confirming they have received their deposit. However, this is not the case as the money was sent directly to an account associated with the suspect and the victim is left out of pocket and without the home they had thought to be putting a deposit on.
What You Need To Do
Message Sent By
Action Fraud (Action Fraud, Administrator, National)
I am emailing to make you aware of incidents which have occurred over the past couple of days in Netley and Hamble.
Victims have received a phone call from person/s purporting to be from their bank. The scammer/s have advised the victims that new a bank card will be in the post tomorrow and have asked if the victim would like the same PIN number. The victims have given over their PIN number. They have engaged in conversation with the victim and then offered to collect the 'old' bank cards.
Somebody then arrives at the victims address and the old bank card/s are handed over.
Victims have subsequently had considerable amounts of money withdrawn from their account/s.
Please be aware of this scam &
- NEVER give out your PIN number to anybody
- Shred all correspondence before disposing of it
- Never give out personal details over the phone or to anybody that you don't know
-If the 'bank' calls, arrange to call the bank back yourself using a phone number that you have been given by your own bank. Try to use a different phone to make the call.
-Cut up expired/old cards before disposing of them
- Do not use an ATM if the ATM appears tampered with in any way
Please remain vigilant & share this information with any elderly or vulnerable neighbours or relatives that you have that may not be receiving this email.
Please contact police on 101 if you believe that you have been the victim of a scam like this that hasn't been reported.
PCSO 16301 Rachel BARRY
Netley and Bursledon Neighbourhood Team
Hedge End Police Station,
St Johns Road,
Hampshire, SO30 4AF
Message Sent By
Rachel Barry (Police, PCSO, Eastleigh District)
The NFIB have become aware of techniques used by romance fraudsters against people using dating sites. Not only will they steal your heart they will steal your money and your identification.
When you think you’ve met the perfect partner through an online dating website or app, but the other person is using a fake profile to form a relationship with you. They’re using the site to gain your trust and ask you for money or enough personal information to steal your identity.
A dating fraudster, previously involved in deceiving people that wanted a friendship explained how they would create fake accounts with social media platforms so that their details matched and could be searched. By appearing to be a real person their fake persona could be corroborated by prospective partners searching their background and believe them to be genuine. The fraudster said:
“People like to live in fairy tales to say it won’t happen to me. I make sure all my conversations are bespoke. I will show insecurity myself about trusting people and this helps allude to them that I’m genuine.”
The fraudster will also utilise as many accessible online research tools to explore people’s information for their own personal gain or sell onwards. The fraudster elaborated and explained:
“I use various online directories to find out about the person. Once I have enough, I use it to milk everything I can using their details or sell them on to other fraudsters via the dark web”
When asked how people could check if a person is real. The romance fraudster offered advice for others searching for a relationship. They told us that after you see a picture of them:
“Ask for them to send you another photo of themselves posing with their thumbs up or waving. It’s like a form of 2 factor authentication and makes it hard to do if it’s not an original picture”
What you need to do
· Avoid sharing too many personal details when on online dating profiles. Revealing your full name, date of birth, or full home address may lead to your identity being stolen.
· Never respond to any requests to send money, or have money transferred into your account by someone you don’t know and trust. These types of requests should always raise a red flag. If something feels wrong then it is usually right to question it.
· Pick a reputable dating website or app, and use the built-in messaging service. Fraudsters want to quickly switch to social media or texting so there’s no evidence of them asking you for money.
Message Sent By
Action Fraud (Action Fraud, Administrator, National)
Hampshire County Council Trading Standards Service have noticed an increase in reports of a particularly devious scam called ‘courier fraud’. This is where a resident is cold called on the telephone by a person purporting to be from the Police or other Law Enforcement Agency.
The aim of the call is to persuade the resident to withdraw money from the bank, very often in large amounts, which will later be collected by an ‘agent’ of the scammer. The reasons given by the caller are elaborate and complex and it is likely that an element of victim grooming takes place. Examples are; to help with Police investigations against the bank, that the bank are dealing in counterfeit money, that the bank is committing fraud and the resident’s money is in danger, but other reasons could be given.
Bank staff often ask questions of their customers if the transaction is unusual, or suspicious. Scammers know this and preload their victims with a cover story to give the bank. Some reports state that the scammers have ‘accompanied’ their victim to the bank by keeping the line to a mobile phone open. The victim is asked to place the phone on the counter when withdrawing the money. The scammer can then hear what security questions are being asked and may use that intelligence on future victims.
Once the money has been withdrawn from the bank, the scammer will arrange for the ‘evidence’ to be collected. This could be the victim’s home or another location, sometimes that location requires a bus or taxi ride. The victim will be given a code word and told that the agent will give this code word when they come to check the evidence. Sometimes paperwork is given in exchange for the evidence, sometimes it is just taken.
Often the victim gets swept up in the excitement of thinking they are ‘helping the Police’ and lose sight of reality. It is likely that once the victim has followed instructions and parted with money, that they will be targeted again. Similar methods are used to persuade victims to buy iTune/Amazon vouchers, or to withdraw Euros.
Residents are asked to be alert to these types of fraud, particularly if they have family members or neighbours who may be vulnerable. Neither the Police or any Law Enforcement Agency would ever act in this way.
Every Police or Police Community Support Officer has a unique collar number. Residents are advised to always make a note of this number and make independent checks should they become concerned. Do not use telephone numbers given by the caller to make checks, they will be false, or the line may be kept open. Make independent enquiries using a different telephone and a number sourced by the resident.
Residents are urged to report any suspicious activity to the Police on 101, to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, or to Trading Standards via our partners at the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06. In an emergency, call the Police on 999.
Have you read our advice on ‘how to keep your vehicle safe and sound’?
Three commercial vehicles have been broken into in Eastleigh recently. Having your car broken into and losing your things to thieves can be very distressing. Here are a few simple steps you can take to keep your vehicle, and what’s in it, safe.
Message Sent By
Marisa Charles (Police, Corporate Communications Officer, Hampshire)
To coincide with Safer Internet Day 2019, today we launched a new film campaign to raise awareness of the risks and consequences to young people sending nude/sexual pictures online.
Our #ItHappenedToMe campaign consists of a short film which tells the real-life story of Megan, who when 14 years old suffered a distressing experience from sending a nude picture of herself to a boy at her school. The film depicts the events leading up to Megan taking the decision to send a picture, emphasizing some common factor influencing why young people may send and share nude and sexual pictures.
With 3 slightly tailored versions, Megan’s story aims to advise and deter young people from falling victim to an experience like hers, as well support both parents and professionals to understand how this might happen to a young person and what they can to support, reassure and educate.
Megan’s story shows common factors which can lead young people to send pictures, in particular peer pressure and ‘normalised’ behaviour – whilst raising awareness of the significant impact such an experience can have on a young person’s mental health and wellbeing.
‘Having moved to a new school after being bullied at a previous school, Megan was desperate to fit in. Overwhelmed by everyone wanting to be friends with the ‘new girl’. Feeling popular and accepted, her social media popularity grew with numerous new friends and followers taking interest in her, including a particular boy she began messaging with. Perceiving a relationship to be developing, Megan reluctantly gave into pressures from him to send him a nude photo of herself, only to learn the person behind the profile was in fact a girl at her school who went on to share the picture among the entire school and beyond.
Devastated by her experience, but having overcome the impact and consequences, Megan wants to share her experience with others to educate and warn about the dangers of sending nude and sexual pictures online.
We are delighted to have worked with Megan on this valuable resource and commend her bravery for publicly sharing it to support young people and the community. Please can we ask for your support by using and sharing the films in your work with young people as well as with your relevant parent/professional networks and audiences – for social media use the hashtag #ItHappenedToMe.
The links to all 3 versions of the film can be found on the Safe4me:https://www.safe4me.co.uk/portfolio/sending-nudes-ithappenedtome/
In the near future we plan to create guidance to using this resource in a lesson/workshop – supporting you to use in your work with planned parent, colleague and young audiences.
We hugely appreciate the support given to this campaign by the NSPCC, local and National Media and Radio; see below links to articles and interviews:
Thank you as always for your support in keeping children and young people safe and informed.