Teens tend to be trusting and a bit naïve and unfortunately, fraudsters know this which combined with their lack of experience, makes teenagers an easy target for scams.
Flickr Creative Commons, stavos
Let’s take a look at the most common forms of fraud and how you can help your youngster stay safe:
Luxuries and Counterfeits
Many teens are strapped for cash. That means, they are always on the lookout for a “good deal.” Most of us know the old saying, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. But many teens have to learn that lesson the hard way.
This lesson usually plays out when kids fall for online advertisements offering luxury items: iPads, name-brand shoes, etc, for a fraction of the retail price. When they enter their credit card information, they’ve actually handed their money over to a scammer who will never deliver on the original promise and your teen is out the money.
A similar scam involves counterfeit items. Your teen might encounter someone selling “genuine” and “authentic” products, but, in reality, your teen is handing over their hard-earned money for cheap knock-offs.
%How You Can Help:%
If you know your teen is in the market for a high-ticket item, help him find a reputable seller. Most often, you can check the website for the brand; and they will list authorised merchants.
You can also do research online to find brand-specific details that will help you distinguish between the legitimate product and the counterfeit.
Many fraudsters use the internet for their scam. One of the most common tactics these days is phishing.
According to Wikipedia, phishing is an attempt to gain access to sensitive information (like usernames, passwords, credit card information, etc.). Fraudsters do this by masquerading as a trustworthy entity. These attacks are usually made through email.
For example, your teen might get an email saying Facebook has detected a security breach in his account. The message looks authentic—the URL, logo and everything else seems to indicate the communication is from Facebook. However, when your youngster clicks on the link included in the message, he is redirected to a form that captures and steals his login information.
At that point, the hacker has total control of your teen’s account.
If a phishing scheme is looking for bank account information or credit card accounts, your teen could lose a lot of money.
Flickr Creative Commons, infocux Technologies
How You Can Help:
Make sure your teen understands the art of phishing. Tell your kids to be on the lookout for suspicious-looking emails.
“Suspicious” might not mean what they are used to it meaning. After all, the message might use an email address and images that look authentic.
Check for spelling or grammar errors. Never open an attachment from someone you don’t know (it could install a virus on the computer and capture valuable information). Don’t enter any personal information on a site that was access via an in-email link.
If you think an account has been compromised, go to the real login page and check things out from there.
In addition to phishing scams, there are also similar, yet slightly different, social media scams. Sit down with your teen and read this article; be on the lookout for social media scams that might try to steal personal information.
Scholarships and Grants
If your teen is heading off to college soon, he might be on the lookout for scholarships or grants. There are many helpful opportunities out there; unfortunately, there are lots of scams too.
A fraudster might lure your teen in with promises of financial assistance. For a small fee, your teen will get insider access to all the highest paying grants and scholarships.
Unfortunately, once the fee has been paid, the money is gone. And if your teen provided the scammer with any personal information, your teen’s identity could be stolen too.
How You Can Help:
Don’t pay anyone for assistance with financial aid. There are valid, official people available who will help free of charge. Check with your youngster’s school; most institutions have financial aid offices with employers who will answer any questions you might have.
Before filling out a scholarship or grant application, do research on the organization affiliated with the offer. Is the organization legit?
Likewise, be wary of anyone or any company that offers to help your student manage debt. A scammer might claim he can do away with all student loan debt—all you have to do is pay a small fee. Something like that—an offer that sounds too good to be true—is a sure sign of fraudulent activity.
Mobile Phone Theft
This form of fraud is twofold: virtual and physical theft.
Mobile phone companies know they can appeal to teens by offering flashy phone accessories such as ringtones, apps, etc. On the surface, these things might appear to be free, but they really come with high fees.
And since scammers like to operate in the midst of confusion, these fees will appear quite cryptic on your bill, making it hard to know where to go to cancel the charges.
Additionally, physical theft of a cell phone can be quite dangerous. Many teens store a wealth of valuable information on their phones. If this device landed in the wrong hands, your teen could be in a world of hurt.
Flickr Creative Commons, Jhaymesisviphotography
How You Can Help:
Encourage your teen to shop with reputable mobile phone accessory companies. Also, read the fine print on things. A lot of online quizzes will offer to text the results. The results might reveal that your youngster is more Darth Vader than Luke Skywalker, and that revelation will come with a big fee on your next bill.
To keep a phone physically safe, tell your youngster to log out of social media and email accounts after each use. Yes, it is a burden to log in and out each time, but your youngster will be glad he did if his phone gets lost or stolen.
Unfortunately, fraud is a real and dangerous thing in our current society. Help your teen be on the lookout for suspicious behavior and take the necessary steps to prevent any information leaks. If a scam does happen, do what you can to mitigate the damage. Be sure to let the authorities know too.
What other scams have you come across that target teenagers?