Today’s teenagers may be highly tech-savvy, but their inexperience with the world (and sometimes stubborn refusal to admit said inexperience) means that they’re frequently the target of scammers. It’s important to understand that scams and cons aren’t really about technology, they’re about being caught off guard. Here are some of the most common scams that target teens.
Fake Scholarship Offers
Real scholarship offers require some information from your teen and offer money in return. Fake scholarship offers require some information from your teen so they can engage in identity theft and offer money in return—which will never materialize. So you can see how this particular scam is especially difficult to detect. Make sure you check out the organization offering scholarship money, and talk to your teen about the dangers of sending out personal information. Remember, a real scholarship application probably won’t require things like credit card information or a SIN.
Once upon a time, the site poetry.com encouraged teen writers to submit their poetry. Wouldn’t you know it, nearly every poem submitted was selected for publishing. The site offered teen writers copies of the anthology their poem appeared in for about $20 a volume. Those books never saw the inside of a bookstore. They were only sold to the teens who submitted poetry. This particular site has changed ownership, but talent scams live on, offering teens everywhere "a chance to publish their work" and then make them pay for the results.
Your teen gets stopped at the mall. A “talent scout” tells them they could be a model. Your teen gets a business card. But your teen has to pay for headshots or a portfolio, or pay for acting lesson upfront. Unfortunately fields like modelling and acting are rife with this kind of scam where fake talent scouts appeal to teens (and parents) vanity. The scam is common enough that the American Federal Trade Commission has a page about it.
Part-Time Work and Training Scams
Because teens face a tough job market, work seasonally, and are just starting to work, they are frequent targets of unethical employers. They may be told they have to do unpaid “training” for eight hours or are required to buy a bunch of products for a sales job. Talk to your teen about employment standards in your province before they start their job hunt.
You’ve probably seen spam comments on nearly every website promising some get-rich-quick nonsense. “I work from home, I make $132.45 an hour . . .” That kind of nonsense. Well, lots of it targets social media like Instagram, because it’s popular with teenagers. Teens have lost money to scammers promising to double their money, wire them money on debit cards, and to regular phishing scams. It’s important to have a talk with your teen about things that seem too good to be true.
The Sexting Scam
This may be the most uncomfortable scam in the modern world, but that’s why it works. Here’s what happens: your teen meets someone online. They start sexting. Then they receive a nude image, purportedly from the person they’re sexting. After a little radio silence, they’re contacted by the “parent” of the person with whom they were sexting. The “parent” claims that their son or daughter is underage, and that the nude image means a crime has been committed, but they’ll be appeased if they receive an e-transfer of a few hundred bucks. Lots of teens freak out, tell no one, and wire the money. And of course, there never was an underage sexter at the other end of the transaction, just a very cruel scammer. We know it’s an uncomfortable conversation, but teens should be aware of this particular scam.
The Bottom Line
Teens may be very tech savvy, but being very tech savvy can lead to overconfidence—and overconfident people are highly susceptible to being scammed. It’s important to talk to your teen about the scams that are out there; that way, they can avoid them. Have you heard of other popular scams that target teens? Let us know in the comments on our Facebook page.