I’ve never taken a poll — scientific, experiential or otherwise — on who most people think are most often targeted by con artists. My guess is the answer would be senior citizens, but the real answer would be everyone — including teenagers.
In a report released by ESET, a technology company based in San Diego, they highlighted five scams that are aimed at teenagers.
Acknowledging teens may not be as impressionable as small children, the report finds that they “have a trusting nature, innocence and youthful naivety that may make them a prime target for scam artists.”
Scammers’ goal with teens is the same as any other target — to rip them off for money or personal information.
More: Dennis Horton: The psychology behind why scams work
If you’re a parent or grandparent of a teenager, these are scams to watch out for and make sure your teens are equally aware:
Social media scams: They are constantly changing, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all. Some of the more common ones pose as links to tabloid articles with headlines. However, once you click on a link, you could be rerouted to a malicious website. Or after clicking on the link you may be contacted directly to participate in games or sweepstakes where your device could be infected with malware. Or you’re asked to provide sensitive information.
Discounted luxury goods: Through fake ads on social media you’ll see offers for luxury products and ridiculously low prices. Scammers will offer the things that will appeal to teens such as limited-edition sneakers and expensive brand-named clothing. The crooks often set up fake retail websites where the teens can make online purchases. The problem is often after you complete the purchase you’ll receive a knock-off product or nothing at all. In worse case scenarios, your credit card information has now been compromised and the criminals can rack up charges on it. If a debit card was used, they clean out your bank account.
More: Airfare scams can leave you grounded
Scholarship scams: Cybercriminals try to prey on students looking online for financial aid opportunities. They will create fake scholarships which will often require payment of a registration fee. There is no scholarship, and the fraudster will pocket the fee. Be leery of any requirement to pay a “processing fee” or a “disbursement fee” and if you have to pay costs to cover taxes.
Employment scams: Look out for too good to be true job offers. The internet is flooded with fake job openings, many are work from home opportunities and come with incredibly great earning potential. The crooks are simply trying to get their targets to provide their personal information; that will then be used for illicit activities. Bank accounts can be opened in the victim’s name, or their identities can be used to forge documents. Additionally, your personal information can be sold to other criminals.
Catfishing scams: Online romance scams can be particularly dangerous. Scammers search social media for their targets and then contact them via private messages. Pretending to be teenagers themselves, the scammers will build trust to develop a romantic relationship. They may manipulate their victims into sharing risqué pictures and then blackmail them into paying money – threatening to release the photos if the money isn’t paid. The criminals may entice the teens to leave home which can put them in a very dangerous situation.
To prevent getting snared in any of these scams, thoroughly research any online offers for jobs or scholarships. Remember when the offer seems too good to be true, trust your gut, you’re probably right. Shy away from anyone who contacts you via social media with romance in mind.
The Federal Trade Commission has announced: “If you were a victim of a scam between 2013 and 2017 and you lost money to a scammer paying through MoneyGram you can now file a claim to get your money back.”
In a recent news release, Daniel Kaufman, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said, “MoneyGram profited by making it easy for con artists to get away with people’s hard-earned money. Today, people can begin to recover, and we urge anyone who lost money to a scammer via MoneyGram to file a claim and get their check.”
In February, forms were mailed to victims who had already been identified. If you did not receive a form, you may file a claim on line or obtain a paper claim form at the website moneygramremission.com. Claims must be submitted by Aug. 31.
Dennis Horton is director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau.