Attention: New viral challenge that encourages children to hurt themselves; experts consider it might be a scam

Some consider that the real goal behind the operators of this viral challenge is to collect sensitive details

According to experts in network security from the International Institute of Cyber Security, various charitable associations for children point out that, an online game that allegedly encourages young people to get hurt, and even to take their own lives, can be treated just a scam.

“The media coverage that has received this alleged challenge has helped schools, authorities and parents continue to generate new information about this issue,” said expert Jim Waterson. Kate Tremlett, manager of harmful content at the British Safer Internet Centre, also believes that the media overexposure of the issue only generates more misinformation: “It is a myth that has now become almost real”.

After conducting a thorough investigation, the British government’s network security experts conclude that there is no evidence to support the “Momo Challenge” as a real threat to the most vulnerable users, technology-savvy children. In addition, the authorities say they have received more media calls than parents concerned about this issue.

Rumors about this ‘suicidal challenge’ began to circulate after the story of a 12-year-old girl and a 16 year-old boy who committed suicide after allegedly receiving messages from an unknown WhatsApp user went viral. Local media claimed that the 16-year-old sent the challenge to the girl, who was found, hanged, two days later. The Secretary of Government of Colombia stated: “Apparently the children participated in a game via WhatsApp that prompted them to get hurt; it was a series of challenges that culminated in suicide”.

The first reports on this game in British territory arose after a family mother published in a Facebook group that her son “had been influenced by this game”. Apparently, the boy would have told his classmates that “a doll-like creature would kill them in their sleep”.

How does this challenge work?

According to experts in network security, those who decide to participate in this challenge receive photographs of highly explicit content via WhatsApp and, in critical cases, are blackmailed to hurt themselves, under threat of posting private information in online forums. Some reports say that Momo may be linked to data theft, extortion, harassment, not to mention that it can generate anxiety, depression, among other disorders.

This challenge would have begun in the state of Tabasco, Mexico. Participants were challenged to send WhatsApp messages to an unidentified user, known as “Momo,” reported Mexican authorities.

However, multiple specialists in the field consider that this challenge is nothing more than a way to extract personal information from users, mainly for the purpose of blackmailing victims. “Momo is likely to be operated by hackers seeking to collect personal information, although this does not mean that parents should not pay attention to what their children do online”, the British authorities mentioned. “The real danger is that parents are distracted from the real problems; children also need to know the risks of sharing their personal information over the Internet”.