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Protecting Vulnerable Voices: How Autistic Individuals Are Targeted by Online Scams

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) brings its own set of challenges and strengths, shaping how individuals see and engage with the world. One tricky part is understanding social cues, which can sometimes make them vulnerable to scams. Recently, my college-aged son encountered this firsthand—he sent money to someone on Instagram through Cash App, and last year, he had to switch bank accounts after sharing his details over the phone. It's tough, but there are ways parents can try to help keep them safe, especially as they head off to college.

  1. Knowledge is Power: Start by teaching them about common scams—things like phishing emails, fake tech support calls, and shady online deals. Break it down into simple terms and real-life examples so they can spot the warning signs.

  2. Build a Circle of Trust: Encourage them to talk things through with trusted people, whether it's family, friends, or school advisors. Having a support network helps them make smarter choices.

  3. Set Clear Rules: Help them understand what's safe to share online and what's not. Emphasize the importance of double-checking before handing out personal info or money.

  4. Tech Smarts: Show them how to stay safe online, like using strong passwords and being wary of random messages asking for info. Two-factor authentication can be a lifesaver too!

  5. Keep an Eye on Finances: Help them monitor our bank statements regularly. If something looks fishy, knowing they can talk to you about it makes a big difference.

Growing up means learning to navigate the digital world responsibly. For teens and adults on the autism spectrum, the journey will need a bit more guidance. By staying informed, building a safety net of trusted advisors, and learning to spot online tricks, they can feel more confident in managing their money and privacy.

As they head towards college and adulthood, parents play a crucial role in preparing their loved ones to make smart decisions independently. Together, we can make sure individuals with autism thrive in today's digital landscape, armed with the skills to protect themselves and their futures.

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