Protect your children and grandchildren from the scams of today’s online world.
With the combination of being tech savvy and confident on the internet, young people today are vulnerable to scam artists, especially in an increasing dangerous online world. They tend to be a more trusting age group than others, as well. Whether you are a concerned parent or grandparent, teaching your teens to be “internet-smart” can help them avoid internet fraud.
Maintaining a constant online presence can make it easier for scammers and identity thieves to find their targets. In 2021, the Federal Trade Commision estimated that individuals 19-years-old and younger reported 51 million dollars in loss from fraud.1
Online Shopping Scams
In April and May of 2020, more people reported problems with online shopping to the FTC than in any other months on records, and more than half of them never received what they bought.2
Finding popular products, like designer handbags and iPhones, for a fraction of the retail price sounds too good to be true because that is exactly what it is: too good to be true. These products often never arrive when purchased.
So how can you avoid online shopping scams? First, check out a seller before purchasing from them. Are they a real business, and are there any negative reviews on Google about them that mention scam? Next, pay with a credit card. This allows you to dispute the charge if it results in a scam.
Social Media Scams
Social media is prime territory for internet-based scams that target teens. Teenagers have grown up on social platforms and tend to be more trusting that other age groups. Unfortunately, scammers take advantage of this.
Common scams associated to social media involve identity theft and catfishing. Being aware of these dangerous scamming attempts is the most important shield against them.3 Teaching a balance of trust and caution can be difficult, but not impossible.
Identity theft is one of the most prevalent types of scams, and is it seen on social media, websites, email, messaging apps, and pop-up windows.
The online interactions that could be an identity theft operation include3:
- False employment opportunities
- Fake applications for credit cards, scholarships, and student loans
- So-called freebies
Scholarships and Grant Scams
These scams target young people and their parents who worry about financing higher education. The goal of these scams may be simple identity theft or a more direct attempt to charge for proprietary information about scholarships or free money the public doesn’t know exist.
Here are signs of a scholarship or financial aid scam that you can look out for4:
- “The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back.”
- “You can’t get this information anywhere else.”
- “I just need your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship.”
- “We’ll do all the work. You just pay a processing fee.”
- “You’re a finalist (for a contest you never entered).”
Auction scams target unsuspecting victims by charging fees for items that are won when there isn’t a real item in the first place.
When a teen is encouraged to auction off possessions, the scam artist requires the teen to send in the item in advance before the buyer’s payment arrives. Never send an item before receiving payment; that is a major red flag. Or the teen pays for an item that never arrives.
Weight Loss Scams
Unfortunately, this type of scam is common due to many teens having body image issues. Scammers weaponize insecurity and use it to encourage teens to spend money on useless and sometimes harmful products. These scams can include products like keto diet pills, free trial offers, and magical diet drinks.
Encourage your teen to lean towards a healthier eating routine and regular exercise rather than turn to these false products that advertise quicker and easier results.
Webcam security is becoming more important in today’s online world. Hackers can infiltrate webcams that are not covered or disabled and collect information and images that can be used to blackmail teens and their parents.
When a webcam is not being used, consider disabling it in the computer settings or covering it with something as simple as a sticky note.
Fighting for Security
There are specific steps you can encourage your teens to take to protect themselves from internet scams and fraud.
- Install malware and antivirus software.
- Use unique passwords for every account you have.
- Don’t click on links from anyone you don’t know or trust.
- Check online reviews before visiting a skeptical website.
- Never pay to enter a contest, apply for a scholarship, or get a job.
canr.msu.edu, March 2022. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/avoiding-scams-what-teens-should-know.
- consumer.ftc.gov, July 2020. https://consumer.ftc.gov/consumer-alerts/2020/07/scams-online-sales-when-orders-dont-arrive.
- Investopedia.com, April 2022. https://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/1012/common-scams-targeted-at-teens.aspx.
- Consumer.ftc.gov, May 2022. https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-avoid-scholarship-financial-aid-scams.