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How to spot the top 3 scams targeting minors

It’s a sad fact but scammers target both adults and young people through popular online platforms such as apps, games and popular social networking websites. Youth are particularly attractive targets for scammers as they often have unused Social Security numbers, do not generally check their credit reports, and are used to sharing information online. Scammers may pose as someone else in order to get young online users to involuntarily share personal information, steal their identity and ruin their credit even before they have a chance to make it to adulthood.

If we can help young people recognize these issues now, they can be proactive and protect their personal information, which as we all know may be one of their most valuable assets. Here are the the top 3 scams that target young people so that you can work with your young ones so that they don’t fall for one:

1. Inexpensive/Free Stuff Scam Many online ads offer cheap or free stuff for sale, such as clothes, sunglasses or handbags. In many cases, these ads are a scam. An unsuspecting young adult may send money but never receive the item or worse, may receive an item of lesser quality. The fake sale may also be an attempt to get personal information, such as user names and passwords, which would allow the scammer to gain access to the victim’s account. It’s very similar to phishing, a topic we’ve covered a number of times. Here’s a recent article about the Venmo scam and College Student scams – they’re all pretty similar. Why? Well, they work – people keep falling for it so scammers will keep using them.

Before purchasing items online, do your research to ensure that the source is legitimate. Scammers often re-post a discount offer that was previously valid but will no longer be accepted by the retailer. Use a search engine to look at customer reviews but beware of websites that post fake reviews to attract more customers. Trust your instincts. If you feel that something seems wrong about the deal, there probably is. Consider only purchasing from established online retailers such as Amazon, Costco, Walmart, etc.

2. Scholarship Scams

Some social media accounts may promise to provide a scholarship, but they’re  actually an attempt to steal your money or your identity. Typically, these scams promise to give scholarships to a certain number of new followers in return for a fee or personal information, such as a Social Security number, bank account information or a credit card number.

Legitimate scholarships do not charge any fees. Avoid sharing your Social Security number, password or any financial information with someone offering a scholarship. None of this information is needed to verify your identity or to “hold” a scholarship. These should all be red flags for online cronies.

3. Account Deletion Scam

Scammers may use messaging services on social media platforms to directly contact other account holders to claim that their account may be deleted or locked if they do not click on a link to update their account. The link may appear legitimate, but when users click it, they are redirected to a website asking for the user’s information, such as passwords, email or physical addresses, or other personally identifying information.

Beware of any message that asks you to click on a link to update your information. If you think you need to update your account, do so through the app settings on your phone or from their website.

The Takeaway

If you believe you have fallen victim to any of these scams, you are encouraged to file a complaint with the Office of the Hawaii Attorney General or with the Federal Trade Commission. We have a complete list of resources, all in one place for you here:

Stay safe out there.


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