Teens were noted to be more impacted by online scams than any other age group last year. A recent study saw trends from 2017 to 2021 and showed that, “victims under 20 have seen a 1126% increase in money lost to online scams.” Seniors, in contrast, saw only a 390% increase in money lost to online scams.
Though many teens have grown up with technology, they have been more at risk on the Internet. This is cause for concern, especially as only 32 percent of parents check their child’s social media.
One common false promise is the romance scam. The romance scam happens when a catfish reaches out to a young, lonely person and showers them with affection. This targeted young person believes that they are talking to a stereotypical ‘perfect person’ and once this scammer has them at this point of trust, they begin asking for money. To some of us, it may seem obvious that this isn’t safe or legitimate. But people can be blinded by beauty, love, and affection to a dangerous degree.
As a general rule: Don’t talk to strangers on the internet, because there’s a reason it was nicknamed ‘the worldwide web of lies.’ However, if you must, be sure to exercise caution. If someone sends you a picture you think could be fake, don’t be afraid to do a reverse image search. And, more than anything, there is never a good reason to send a stranger money online. Any scammer’s excuse you may think of can most likely be proven faulty through just a little bit of poking and prodding.
Just like there is no reason to speak with strangers on the internet, teens need to be aware of their social media interactions. With many teens having social media accounts, there is a worry that they will be scammed. Specifically, scammers have utilized social media accounts and impersonated influencers. Many times, these accounts offer products for free. These accounts often offer a fake product through a link which is a form of phishing. The second teens click on the link, their personal information is given to the scammer.
In order for teens to avoid these scams, they should be cognizant of the verification status a user has (check mark) and the number of followers an account has. Additionally, teens should check a link before opening it.
Similarly, online shopping has become pretty easy to do, what with the prevalence of cell phones in the teenage hand. Between seemingly-legitimate online stores and sketchy ads that lead to fake websites, it can be all too easy for teens to fall prey to a scammer. These fraudulent sites look just like any other small, online store and usually have especially low prices or unbelievable discounts. Well, it’s just like the old saying: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
The best way to counteract these sites — and the lost money that comes with them — is to think before you click. First, check the URL. Are there any spelling errors, like ‘buycheep.com’? Does the name seem weird or unprofessional, like ‘supercheapclothes.com’? If they do, think twice before you proceed. If the site passes those tests, or you’ve proceeded anyways, keep a careful watch for grammatical or spelling mistakes. Assuming there are none, and you find an item you like, look at the Google reviews of the store and make sure that everything seems alright. It’s important to make good online shopping decisions, so always make sure to validate these suspicious stores.
It can be a scary online world out there. There’s no reason to completely shy away from it, but it’s always important to exercise caution. So, next time you get a bad feeling about a request — especially a monetary one — on social media, an online store, or while chatting with a virtual stranger, think twice. Always remember: Being scammed is easy, but with a little bit of education and a quick pause of critical thinking, you will be safer than ever.