Terrible Scams Targeting Kids

  • Scammers Go After Kids and Teens

    It used to be that you would tell your children not to talk to strangers on the street, but these days you have to worry about whether they are being contacted by strangers through e-mail, social networks, instant messages, texts and more. Generally speaking, most scams are targeted toward adults since they are the ones with the bank accounts and credit cards. Still, a few scams over the years have been directed specifically at children. We’ve rounded up a few of the worst scams in order to highlight the ways that con artists are most likely to try to take advantage of young kids and teens. Photo Credit: shareski
    Social Security Scam
  • Social Security Scam

    While kids and teens may not have credit cards, they do have Social Security numbers, and some scammers are now trying to get their hands on this valuable piece of information. As the Associated Press reported recently, identity thieves now target “dormant” Social Security numbers that they find on computer databases, and more often than not, these belong to kids who haven’t yet needed to use their numbers to get a line of credit. The con artists then “sell those numbers under another name to help people establish phony credit and run up huge debts they will never pay off.” At the moment, it’s unclear what, if anything, can be done to prevent this from happening. Photo Credit: TheLawleys
    Justin Bieber Ticket Giveaway
  • Justin Bieber Ticket Giveaway

    The only thing teens love more than Facebook is Justin Bieber, a teen pop singer, which is what made this particular scam so effective. Earlier this month, many Facebook users noticed that one of their contacts had a status message, which read, “WOW! Justin Bieber is Giving Away Free Concert Tickets Now!” followed by a link. By clicking on the link, users ended up installing a Facebook application that would post the message on their wall, thereby spreading it on to their friends.  The end goal was to encourage kids to click on the link, and fill out an online application that required their cell phone number. If users did this, they would be signed up for a premium service that cost about $8 a week. Similarly, there was another online scam this month where con artists would make up eye-catching news headlines about Justin Bieber (“Justin Bieber takes estrogen pills”) in order to lure users to click on them in Google and other search engines. Anyone who did so was directed to a site that installed malicious software on their computer. As Softpedia pointed out, “Due to his large and young fan base, that is spread across the world, Justin Bieber has become a favorite theme for cybercriminals to use in their attacks.” Photo Credit: jake.auzzie
    Social Networking Scams
  • Social Networking Scams

    For all the good features Facebook and other social networks have, they are still riddled with scammers. In the past couple years, some con artists have hacked into Facebook accounts in order to convince users’ contacts to give them money. Users on both Twitter and Facebook have been spammed with promises of “free iPads,” and most recently, there was a clickjacking scam on Facebook where users were tricked into filling out a survey in order to win a contest, only to end up adding charges to your cell phone bill. Photo Credit: Robert S. Donovan
    Farmville Ads
  • Farmville Ads

    On Farmville, one of the most popular online gaming sites, kids work to grow their own farms and can earn virtual cash from their harvest. The game itself is very tame and safe, but like all Internet sites, there is still at least one risk: questionable advertisements. As CBS reported last year, some kids have clicked on ads that “promise a free trinket or virtual cash to be used in the game,” only to end up losing real money in cell phone bills when they mistakenly give out their personal information. Photo Credit: Farmville.com
    Twilight Casting Call
  • Twilight Casting Call

    If there’s one thing teens and adults have in common, it’s that both are always eager to believe in something that’s probably too good to be true. At the end of last year, several teenagers reportedly received an e-mail from a fake casting site that claimed to be able to place people in the newest Twilight movie. According to Fox 12, the e-mail that many teens received read, "This is a nationwide casting and Portland-area movie extras are still needed. No experience is necessary, all looks/types are wanted and the pay ranges from $80-$250 per day depending on whether it's part or full time." The company then said that anyone interested would have to pay up front to view more details about the opportunity, an odd practice for casting companies. Photo Credit: annafur
    Text Message Scams
  • Text Message Scams

    It’s not just websites and social networks that scammers are using to track down young targets. A report last year from Cisco Systems found that text message scams are on the rise, as more con artists are trying their luck in SMS format. At the moment, the majority of scams seem to involve scammers pretending to be from financial institutions in an attempt to get your bank account pin number. It seems unlikely that teens would be as vulnerable to this kind of scam as adults, since fewer teens probably have bank accounts in the first place. But the very fact that scammers are beginning to make use of text messages is still troublesome, since teens spend so much of their time texting. Photo Credit: ydhsu
    Ringtone Scams
  • Ringtone Scams

    In past years, ringtone scams were the other big threat to teens with cell phones. In these cases, users would sign up for free or cheap ringtones only to be knocked with a pricey bill for more ring tones than they intended to buy. Fortunately, authorities and phone companies have cracked down on this in recent years. Photo Credit: Ollie Crafoord
    Scams for the College-Bound
  • Scams for the College-Bound

    Teens may be at their most vulnerable to scams when they begin to apply for college. As the Federal Trade Commission points out, there are many scholarship scams out there that claim to offer big scholarships in return for a hefty upfront fee. Besides this, teenagers and their parents should also watch out for advertisements promising student jobs with no previous work experience and programs that let you earn a degree at home. Photo Credit: Berea College
    Preventing Scams Among Kids and Teens
  • Preventing Scams Among Kids and Teens

    The most important step to protect yourself and your kids against these and other scams is simply to be aware of them. Most of the scams above involve social networks and online advertisements. So, as Scambusters.org points out, it’s important that you tell your kids to never give out their personal information online without consulting you first. You might also want to sit down with them in front of the computer and give them a lesson on what is and isn’t safe to click on online. This applies even to teenagers entering college. As we’ve reported before, college students are at a high risk for scams and identity theft in particular, because they give out so much personal information for scholarships, loans, housing and more. With all of that going on, it’s more important than ever that college students take the time to research any business or organization before giving out their personal information. Photo Credit: CarbonNYC
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