When most people think of scam victims, they tend to think of elderly grandparents getting bamboozled by fake emails from Nigerian princes. However, there’s another demographic that people often overlook: children.
Scammers stole the identities of or defrauded over 1 million children in 2018. Even worse, 67% of those victims weren’t even eight years old. Unfortunately, children are going online earlier and earlier, and scammers value stealing children’s identities since they can use the stolen identity for longer amounts of time before they’re caught.
Types of Scams Targeting Children
How do scammers target children? Scarily enough, it’s often the same way they target adults, only with a kid-friendly spin.
Contest Based Scams
Some scammers like to organize fake competitions that range from talent shows to online art fairs. Once they have the child’s personal information, they simply abandon the contest idea. Some might also ask for a parent’s credit card information to pay for a small entry fee.
A more sophisticated scam is to run a literature or art competition and let each child know they’re a winner, and for a small fee they can have their work published or displayed.
Deals That Are Too Good to be True
Kids, like adults, often wish that things weren’t so expensive. So when they see concert tickets to their favorite band on sale for a quarter of the price or a “surplus iPhone” on sale for under $50, they’ll naturally want to take advantage of the opportunity.
Most of the time, the scammers will happily take children’s money (and credit card information if you provide it) and you’ll never hear from them again. However, scammers have also been known to email forged tickets or mail the victim a cheap imitation of an iPhone before vanishing from the Internet.
Fake Scholarships or Grants
Many teenagers are justifiably worried about how expensive college is. Scammers use this fear to take advantage of teens by offering fake scholarships or grants to help offset the cost of college. Many scams like these will simply use steal the teen’s identity using the personal information they submit on a fake application.
You should also know that some scammers will use a variant of this scheme. They’ll make an offer to sell teenagers information about “little known” grants and scholarships, and once the victim has paid the fee, the scammer will send them a list of grants and scholarships that may or may not be real.
Internet Freebies and Fake Verification
Scammers know how much people love things for free, and often try to lure people in with offers of free trials or information. One of the most common scams is to offer a free smartphone wallpaper or ringtone, and require the victim to submit personal information before they can get the ringtone. Scammers usually use this information to steal a teenager’s identity.
Some companies, though, will actually send the teen a new ringtone or wallpaper. They’ll neglect to mention, however, that the teen is now signed up for a service that automatically sends them a ringtone or wallpaper each month for a hefty fee. They’ll also make sure that this service is worded ambiguously or overly general on their victim’s cell phone bill so they won’t realize what the charge is for.
It's also worth pointing out that free mobile apps might also allow scammers to steal your personal information.
Let First Alliance Credit Union Help Protect Your Loved Ones From Scams
Scammers don’t discriminate when it comes to victims. They’ll happily swindle a child the way they would a senior citizen. The more you know about the tricks scammers use to con children, the better equipped you’ll be to protect your children from being a scammer’s next victim.
If your child is a member of First Alliance Credit Union, you can help them take advantage of the tools and resources we offer to help protect themselves from scams. As parents, you, will be able to monitor your child’s financial activity using online banking, and when teenagers get their debit card, they’ll be able to use the the free MyCards feature on the First Alliance mobile app that will let them limit what types of businesses can use their card, the dollar amount of purchases on their cards and even the geographical area in which they can use their cards. Even better, First Alliance members get a discount on LegalShield, a comprehensive identity theft protection coverage. Sign up for it today to freeze scammers in their tracks.
If you believe your child has been the victim of a scam, you can also talk with a knowledgeable First Alliance advisor who will help you understand your options to recover your identity and mitigate any damage.
Want more information about identity theft? Listen to our Good Money Moves podcast episode about what to do if your identity is stolen.