With the variety of approaches and levels of sophistication out there, scams are designed to take anyone in. And that includes children.
If anything, children are even more vulnerable to scams than adults. They are unlikely to have had much experience identifying scams, and are (in general) less resistant to temptation. It is up to parents to educate kids about scams, and to help them tell the difference between what’s a scam and what’s real.
One effective approach is to show your kids some of the more common scams out there. Some of the scams that most often target young children and teenagers include:
-Supposedly free cell phone apps or upgrades
-Contests or competitions
-Discounted luxury products
-Online “friends” who are actually predators
Free or Cheap Apps or Upgrades
Any child or teen who has a cell phone is probably eager to show it off, especially if it also has the latest apps or software. The latest and greatest cell phone add-ons don’t always come cheap. So, if your child sees one at a discounted price or for free, they may feel compelled to get it.
Then what happens is that the app turns out to not be what was promised. Or, worse, it contains a virus or malware designed to take information from your child’s phone.
Your teen may be worried about ways to pay for college. This leaves them vulnerable to scammers posing as scholarship funds or grants. With what may look like genuine applications, all these supposed funds wind up doing is taking your child’s personal information and basically stealing their identity.
Similar to fake scholarships, some scams may offer money or other rewards in the form of a contest or competition. With the former, a contest offers potential winnings for the simple trade-off of a child’s name, phone number, and other identifying information.
With the latter, a young writer or artist could be drawn in by the possibility of winning an award for their work. A scammer will often request an entry fee along with the piece to be judged. The added effort your child made to create something will leave them with even more of a broken heart once they learn that there really is no competition.
Name Brands for Less
This scam may not be focused only on kids or teens. But younger people may be more likely to fall for it. The world of luxury, brand name knock offs is alive and well. The online market is especially fruitful for scammers, being as obvious flaws in workmanship are not nearly so obvious in online photos.
Fake brand name handbags, shoes, and even cell phones can be featured online for what seem like extraordinarily low prices. It’s only after the piece is delivered–if it’s delivered, that is–that your child learns why the price was so good.
While not necessarily under the scam umbrella, online predators can employ similarly dishonest approaches to get what they want out of children. In this case, much more than just your child’s financial status is at risk.
Predators will often take on the persona of a fellow gamer or someone else who likes what your child likes. They present themselves as someone your child’s age. They gain your child’s trust and, over time, groom them as a potential romance.
Is It Too Good to be True?
That is exactly the question you want your children to ask themselves when faced with any of the scams or other online situations outlined above. If nothing else, teach them to take a pause before accepting any tempting offer. Analyze the ad or website for inaccuracies or grammatical errors. Even better, show your kids how to research the entities via online searches, searches on review sites, and more.
And, until they are old enough to do it on their own (18 or older), you can be there to help them verify the legitimacy of a company or person with an in-depth public records search. After all, it is up to you, their parent, to make sure your child’s financial future and safety is secure.
For more information on scams and other ways to keep yourself and your kids safe, check out the articles available on the PeopleFinders blog.
Image attribution: Photo by KK Tan – www.shutterstock.com