The inexperienced and trusting nature of young people is often what causes them to fall victim to scam artists. Some scam artists know how to identify and take advantage of teens and their need to fit in. Also, because teens are often so involved in new technology and web-based interactions, it's no surprise that many scammers have found the Internet to be the optimal environment for preying on teens.
Inexpensive Luxury Goods
Have you ever seen ads online for cheap iPhones, electronic gadgets, designer clothes, handbags and other luxury goods being sold at just a fraction of the retail price? Many of these advertisements are simply scams aimed at unsuspecting individuals who are looking for a good deal. However, these scams don't only exist online. Teens can be approached with too-good-to-be-true offers just about anywhere. Sadly, in many cases, these cheap goods don't even exist. After these teens hand over their money to the scam artist, they never receive the promised merchandise. Sadly, these teens are often so embarrassed about being duped that they won't tell their parents or the authorities, so many of these scams are unreported.
The naivety of youth often makes it easier for would-be identity thieves to phish for information, as adolescents don't even realize that they're handing over personal information that can be used for identity theft. Many of these scams operate online, making use of emails or pop-up windows that ask for verification of account information, social security numbers, credit card information or any other kind of personal data. Other versions of this scam include false employment opportunities that require the applicant to give personal information, as well as false credit card application forms.
Some scammers run contests where the odds of winning are virtually nil and some of them don't even hold contests. These scams may also focus on gathering personal information as a means of identity theft. Similar scams exist in the form of literature or art competitions where creative young people can submit their work in the hopes of winning a prize or have their work published. Once the work is published, the teen is then asked to pay a sum of money for the published book or required to send money with the opportunity to win an even larger prize.
False Investments and Money Transfers
Investment and money transfer scams operate in many different ways. Although these scams don't necessarily target teens, they may be more likely to fall victim to them. The victim will generally receive an email from a foreign businessperson who claims to need help moving funds abroad. Perhaps the victim will get an offer to invest in a great opportunity with huge payouts (often known as a Ponzi scheme). Although many of these scams operate in the online world, they exist in other forms as well.
Scholarships and Grants
Many young people are looking toward their futures and this may cause them to fall victim to scams surrounding false scholarships or grants. Many of these offers are attempts to steal personal information from students who may be looking for financial aid, though many scholarship scams focus on charging money for information on potential scholarships that may or may not actually exist.
Another scam targets young college students who have accrued debt from legitimate student loans. These older teens may be approached by people who offer to help eliminate student debt in exchange for a small fee. Once the fee is paid, the fraudster disappears without eliminating the student's debt.
Auction scams have been found to target unsuspecting teens in various ways. One scam involves an auction for an item that doesn't exist or never arrives. The buyer has paid for merchandise that he or she never receives. Alternatively, when an unsuspecting teen has put one of his or her items up for auction, a buyer suggests that the check is on its way, but urges the teen to send the item anyway. The funds never arrive and the teen has now given away his or her valuables for nothing.
Cell Phone Companies
Many teens carry around their cell phones wherever they go, creating a vehicle for potential fraud. Many teens want to personalize their gadgetry with new ringtones and wallpaper images. Some companies target teens for these "free" services that send new ringtones and images on a regular basis. However, what they don't advertise is that this service comes with a hefty fee that'll be added to the phone bill each month. Many of these fees appear on the phone bill with ambiguous terms that aren't easily understood by consumers, making it difficult for parents to realize what they're paying for.
The Bottom Line
It's important for parents to teach their children that if anything looks too good to be true, it probably is. If you're a parent, take the time to discuss the types of information that scammers are looking for, and make your children aware of any potential scams. Even if you need to repeat yourself, remember that it's always better to be safe than sorry.