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Police warn parents about the online Momo Challenge hoax

Fri, Sep 28: Pointe-Claire parents received a troubling safety notice recently from St. John Fisher Elementary School urging them to be careful. As Global’s Billy Shields reports, authorities are worried about a cyberbullying scam called the Momo Challenge.

Oksana Yakimiw has four children attending class under the umbrella of the Lester B. Pearson School Board — three boys at St. John Fisher Elementary and a boy who attends Lindsay Place High.

She thought of her oldest boy when she received an email on Thursday night warning parents of the Momo Challenge. He’s the one child in her family with a mobile phone that uses WhatsApp.

“It’s pretty scary because I’m an adult and it scares me. It’s that scary,” she said.

The Momo Challenge surfaced in the mainstream about a year ago. Cybersecurity experts believe it is a sort of phishing scam that looks to extort dangerous favors from its victims or else it threatens to expose compromising video of them or hurt their families somehow.

“You’ve got to look out for warning signs. Like for example, you pass by the iPad or the iPhone and they’re hovering over it. Or they’re being very secretive. They look exhausted. Some of these challenges demand that the person wake up at like 3 a.m. in the morning,” said Terry Cutler, a Montreal cybersecurity expert.

The challenge has been linked to at least one suicide. It incorporates a creepy smiling image. Cutler said it is being performed by collectives of hackers in Mexico and Japan.

Neither police or school officials would comment further on the situation. Yakimiw said she’s always looking out for bullies, on the playground and online.

“It happens everywhere, and it’s just scary that it happens online as well.”

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