The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have alerted us to a rise in scams from April using the Google Hangouts platform.

What is Google Hangouts?

Hangouts is a free instant video, chat and messaging platform. It is available across platforms and allows users to have group video calls and chats anywhere in the world with two or more users. Like many other video messaging platforms, its use has surged during the pandemic.

Google Hangouts saw over a 100% increase in use in the middle of April this year

What are the concerns?

  • We have been asked to circulate a digital safeguarding alert to parents, carers and the public regarding a scam on this platform

  • The PSNI have reported a surge in scams, financial coercion and extortion of children on the platform

  • Scammers are reportedly building rapport with vulnerable SEND young people, which resulted in attempts to extort money in the form of Amazon vouchers

Top tips for safety on the platform

  • Children and young people should only talk to people they know on the platform. They should not share their email on other platforms as this allows others to call them on Hangouts

  • Take time to understand the platforms children in your care are using, if they use Google Hangouts you should use the platform together to understand the blocking and reporting functions

  • Young people should be encouraged to be vigilant of people befriending them on platforms and asking for money either by direct transfer or gift vouchers

Further information

  • If you have concerns about online coercion, extortion or bribery you should contact the PSNI here

  • For further information about scams, visit the ‘Scams’ section in your app

  • For more information about Google Hangouts visit the ‘Video Messaging’ page in the ‘Social Media’ section of your app