Teens & Online Fraud

Teens & Online Fraud

This may surprise you, but studies show the average 19-year-old is significantly more likely to be scam victim than an older adult. In 2022, it’s estimated that scam victims under the age of 20 lost at least $210 million dollars. That’s about $300 per 19-year-old! That's a LOT of money for a kid!

Today's teenagers may be tech savvy, but they still need guidance to stay safe online. Fraudsters are increasingly using platforms like Snapchat and Instagram to target victims. Here are some common scams that target teens, how to spot them, and how to keep your teen safe online.

Online Shopping Scams
"I can get an iPad for $50!"
One of the most common ways fraudsters target teens is to appear as a retailer offering something they want for a screaming deal. They set up fake websites that look legit and even advertise on social media. They appear to sell high-ticket, popular items (like brand-name shoes, clothing, or electronics). The victim will purchase the item (which never arrives), and then not only are they out of the money they paid, but their account information is also left vulnerable.

Red flags to watch for:
  • Lack of contact information on the website
  • No return or refund policy
  • Pressure to act quickly.
Help your teenager to spot the common signs of sketchy websites and advertisements. Often, the web address needs to be corrected, or checkout needs to be more secure. Also, checking out as a guest when making purchases is a good idea so their information remains private.

Friendship Scams
"My friend needs me to send her money to fix her car. Her mom isn't working right now, and she needs to fix her car to get to work."
In today's digital world, making new friends online is easier than ever. Unfortunately, creating a false identity to scam someone is also easy. Fraudsters make "friends" with their targets online, chatting back and forth and sometimes even speaking with them over the phone or even video chat. After a while, the scammer will ask for a favor, such as depositing a check or sending them money for an emergency. 

Red flags to watch for:
  • Unverifiable identity
  • Inconsistent stories
  • Avoidance of meeting in person
Encourage your teens to know who they talk to online and on social media. Before accepting a friend or follow request they should check the profile of the person who wants to connect with them. Do they have mutual friends? How many followers do they have? A person with few followers or a new account is a red flag. They should be suspicious of someone they haven't met in person.

Job Scams 
"My new boss is going to send me a check for equipment. I need to send some of it to another guy who's starting too."

If a job sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers often pose as employers who will send a check for equipment before you start work. They ask the victim to deposit the check, keep some of the money for their services and send the rest to someone else. The check is a fake, and the victim is left owing money. They may also offer big money but demand upfront payment for training, materials, or equipment. Legitimate employers will not ask you to pay cash upfront for job opportunities, training materials, or equipment.

Red flags to watch for:
  • Unsolicited job offers
  • Vague job descriptions
  • Promises of high pay with little work
Your teen should thoroughly research any company before applying for a job. Check the company's website and social media presence. Look for misspellings, grammatical errors, or lack of contact information. They should use caution and avoid providing sensitive personal information, like their Social Security number.

The digital world offers endless possibilities for connection, creativity, and learning, but teens should protect themselves from the threat of online fraud. By staying informed, exercising caution, and trusting their instincts, teens can protect themselves from falling victim to scams and maintain a safe and enjoyable online experience. 

Stay informed about what scams are out there. Online purchase scams, peer-to-peer payment scams, cryptocurrency scams, student loan forgiveness… the list goes on and on. The Federal Trade Commission is a great resource to learn more. 


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