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Autistic teenager in tears after being conned out of £1,400 of savings on World of Warcraft

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Aeolienne

(Not written by me)

‘Broken’ autistic teen, 19, left in tears after being conned out of £1,400 savings in World of Warcraft game scam 

Josh Smith's mother, Janine, says her son 'couldn't comprehend the idea that someone may have bad intentions'

By Claudia Tanner

Thursday December 6th 2018

  • Josh Smith was hoodwinked into buying extra services for his 'online friend' to use in the game 
  • Bank flagged the transactions and his mother explained to him he'd been conned 
  • Has now cancelled his World of Warcraft subscription – which he relied on to make friends – and won't play the game anymore 
  • Janine Smith says her son 'feels stupid' and will need counselling to cope

Teenager Josh Smith believes everyone is genuine, honest and trustworthy. 

So when his mother, Janine, sat him down to explain that his new “online friend” had conned him into forking out £1,400 through a video game, he struggled to accept this was true. 

But when he realised it was, the tears came thick and fast for the 19-year-old.

“Josh just thinks everyone is like him and he couldn’t comprehend the idea that someone may have bad intentions,” said Janine, 42, from Nutley [nr Uckfield], East Sussex. 

He’s been left broken by this. He said his faith in humanity had been lost 

Janine Smith 

“He just kept saying you’re wrong, he’s my friend he wouldn’t scam me. Then once he knew that this was the case he just fell apart. He’s been left broken by this. He said his faith in humanity had been lost.” 

It prompted his mother to launch a GoFundMe appeal to ask strangers to restore that faith – and Josh is now “overwhelmed” after more than £600 has rolled in.

Making friends is difficult 

Josh was diagnosed with autism when he was two-and-a-half years old. “I have an older child and knew that he was behind in reaching milestones – making eye contact and learning to walk,” said Janine. 

“We had a birthday party for him when he was three and that was the last one ever. He really struggled with sensory overload from the noise of all the children and had a melt down.” 

Indeed, the World of Warcraft game has offered Josh an escape and way of coping.

“He’s played it since he was about nine. The game provides him with predictability which helps him to make sense of the confusing world he finds himself in. 

“Because of his autism making friends is very difficult for Josh so he was very excited to have a new friend.” 

Around four weeks ago, this new “friend” convinced Josh to buy £1,400 worth of Blizzard Gift Game Cards and gift them by sending the codes, promising that he or she would pay him back. These cards provide items and services that help a user boost their game.

Janine heard alarm bells when her son asked her for help in making another payment because his bank had flagged up one of the transactions as suspicious. 

“Josh is vulnerable because he believes everything people tell him. We’ve been lucky up until now that no-one at school or at college has ever bullied him or taken advantage of him. 

“Now he’s cancelled his World of Warcraft subscription and he won’t play the game anymore which he loved doing. It breaks my heart to see him so upset.”

 

Autistic children ‘more trusting’ 

Children on the autism spectrum are more trusting than typically developing children, according to a study. A group of young, school-aged children with the disorder and typically developing (TD) peers of the same age participated in a simple hide-and-seek game. 

In the game, a researcher who was a stranger to the pupils pointed to or left a marker on a box to indicate the whereabouts of a hidden reward. Results showed that although the autistic children did not blindly trust any information provided by the unfamiliar adult, they appeared to be more trusting in the adult than their peers. 

 

Restoring faith 

Janine said she reported the incident to the police but hasn’t heard back. Josh received a £600 refund from his bank but it said it couldn’t reimburse him anymore as he had voluntarily made the payments.

His mother had to go into Josh’s work to explain to his bosses why he “wasn’t himself” and would need extra support. 

Josh had been saving up the money to learn how to be independent and manage his own finances. 

Janine says her son is now “traumatised” and needs counselling with an autism specialist.

“Josh has worked since he was 16 as a part-time greenkeeper and has recently gone full time,” she said. “He was saving from his salary so that he can pay for his own golf membership, driving lessons and car insurance but now that money is gone. 

It’s very touching that over £600 has been raised, it really helps to show him that people can be very kind 

Janine Smith

“This has had such a negative effect on his mental health, he feels stupid, vulnerable and violated. 

“I wouldn’t normally resort to begging with an online appeal but I can’t afford to refund him. His counselling will cost £50 a session, and anything over he can keep for his own funds. It’s very touching that over £600 has been raised, it really helps to show him that people can be very kind.” 

To donate to the appeal, visit here.

Source: iNews

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Willow

It is sad to hear but I feel like his Mum should have been helping him with his accounts much more than she clearly was doing. If you know your son is vulnerable, you manage money with them, not let them take all the responsibility. 

My brother is on the spectrum and he’s 19, loves gaming etc., and he has his own money from his disability benefits, but my mum has final control over his account and helps him make all his purchases. There have been times when he’s wanted to donate to game server costs and things, and Mum’s helped him to do it but made sure he keeps his donations at a sensible amount.

I really feel for the boy in the article, and it’s a sad, extreme way to learn a difficult truth about the world - still an important lesson to learn though, and once he’s come around from the initial upset and hurt, it will help him be less vulnerable in the future. But like I said, I feel the fault here mostly lies with the mother. :( 

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Aeolienne
On ‎1‎/‎3‎/‎2019 at 10:01 AM, Aeolienne said:

Has now cancelled his World of Warcraft subscription – which he relied on to make friends – and won't play the game anymore 

Making friends is difficult 

“Because of his autism making friends is very difficult for Josh so he was very excited to have a new friend.” 

Around four weeks ago, this new “friend” convinced Josh to buy £1,400 worth of Blizzard Gift Game Cards and gift them by sending the codes, promising that he or she would pay him back. These cards provide items and services that help a user boost their game.

It would seem (judging by the bits I've quoted, admittedly out of context) that the mother rather bought into the idea of her son finding a "friend" online and didn't see fit to warn him of the dangers of assuming that such a friendship is genuine. Or perhaps she was woefully ignorant of techy issues. It could be a generational thing, I suppose, like my own mother initially seeming surprised at the "never accept a lift on a first date" advice. I had a quick look at the NSPCC's "Net Aware" guide and World of Warcraft is not one of the sites they have reviewed - yet - presumably because it doesn't fall into the category "ones that kids use the most".

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collectingrocks

I'm not a gamer and thus no nothing about this particular game but this just illustrates to us that some people have theory of mind issues and are too trusting. No wonder he was devastated when it all fell through

But yes, I know parents aren't always as tech savvy (I am one of those...), the very least mum could have done was to monitor his on-line activity and banking knowing he was vulnerable and easy prey

Clearly, this young man is never going to trust anyone again

 

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