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Warn Your Kids About These Online Scams

It’s probably no surprise that kids love smartphones. Who doesn’t? But while 85% of American adults own a smartphone, a full 95% of our kids have one, according to a survey by Pew Research Center. While those kids might be good at posting TikToks, they’re also susceptible to online scams aimed at their innocence. You can help them avoid those cons with these tips from the Federal Trade Commission.

  1. Free Smartphone Scams

    Everyone wants a new smartphone, right? This scam targets teens who crave the newest and coolest digital devices but cannot always afford them. To enter to win the phone, all a young person needs is a debit or credit card and a $10 entry fee. However, there are no winners. Once the criminals have a teen’s card information, they’ll use it more.

  2. Online Shopping Scams

    Many young people have not heard the saying, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” That’s why they fall for online shopping scams so easily. These scams target tweens and teens with expensive items at drastically reduced prices. If they buy the item online, they sometimes receive a worthless knockoff. But more often than not, they are parted from their money and never get anything but a lesson in human nature.

  3. Scholarship and Grant Scams

    As if college hopefuls didn’t have enough to worry about, now there are criminals preying on those looking for college funding. In this scam, personal information, as well as money, is exchanged for scholarship and grant opportunities. The problem is that those opportunities will never come. To avoid this scam, do your own grant and scholarship research. You’ll save money and avoid being taken for a ride.

  4. Social Media Scams

    Most social media scams deal with identity theft where information is gathered with surveys and contests. To enter to win or participate, young people are asked for personal and often private information about money, finances, and where they live.

  5. Talent Contests

    Fame and fortune lure the best of us, but for young people it can be irresistible. With this scam, criminals pose as hiring agents for singers, actors, writers, and more. They promise a wonderful new life filled with money and opportunity. All it takes is a small monthly fee. Once the tween or teen gives them the funds, the criminal will then either drop all communications or pretend to be their agent and ask for money periodically.

“How to” Avoid Scams Checklist for Young People

  • Download cautiously: Don’t put anything on your smartphone or computer until you’re sure it’s legitimate.
  • Avoid clickbait: These often-suspicious links may seem innocent, but they’re learning things you don’t want them to know.
  • Choose your friends wisely: Don’t trust anyone you don’t know in person.
  • Don’t share personal information: Even a phone number is enough to steal your identity.
  • Refresh passwords often: And use different passwords for every login.
  • Install malware and antivirus software: Don’t forget to use it.
  • Don’t open every email or text message: Especially if you don’t know who is sending it or if it seems suspicious. If they really need to contact you, they’ll find another way.

Talk to Your Kids
Anyone can fall for an online scam. When a young person becomes a victim, they often get embarrassed, keep it a secret, and leave it unreported. The FTC suggests talking to your kids about online security, criminals, cyberbullying and more with their Net Cetera guidebook. Get a copy here. Plus, the Federal Trade Commission has resources available to help you avoid and report fraud and scams at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

If your kid, tween, or teen falls victim to an online scam, contact the Montana Department of Justice at [email protected].