Scammers have been around since…well, pretty much since the time people had anything they thought was valuable. Modern scammers don’t just target adults to get money. They go after kids, too. To teach your child how to avoid fraud, you first have to grasp ways companies and individuals trick your kid into spending more than she typically would.
People are targeting kids for identity theft in numbers that rival cases of adult ID theft, and with good reason: Unlike adults, kids aren’t always doing business that involves credit bureau reporting or other major agencies. Subsequently, it may be months or even years before parents or caregivers discover there is a problem. You can help your child by avoiding carrying your child’s Social Security card and by asking companies or individuals why a request for identification information is necessary. You also can get your child’s credit report.
A popular Internet scam with kids is to let them know about discounted items (e.g., iPods) via website ads or emails. The scams provide junk items or none at all, or they ask that your child pay for other items before getting the discount. Some even ask for prepayment and then don’t send the item. Another way scammers are getting money from children is by advertising popular items or events (e.g., music concerts) through texts or sites such as Facebook. Children click links for these items and inadvertently sign themselves up for other purchases or services, or they are asked to provide personal information such as a phone number. Kids get caught with these scams in part because it is so easy to submit payment with a click, and because they don’t always read or see the conditions in the fine print.
Your Child’s Phone
Scammers know that texting is a primary means of communication for today’s young people, so scammers are finding ways to appear as legitimate companies (e.g., a bank) and request personal information or payments via mobile messaging services. The problem sometimes expands into voicemails, as well—when the child answers or calls back, the person on the line pressures her to buy something or make a payment. Lastly, scammers are paying attention to the fact kids use their phones as music players and that children will get specific ring tones for particular people in their contact lists. Scammers get your child to pay more than normal for ring tones by asking him to sign up for a subscription service or buy more ring tones than wanted from ringtone websites.
Although not every kid is the next Michael Jordan or Renee Fleming, lots of kids are extremely talented and want a shot at stardom. Parents and caregivers also strive to get their children to excel. Scammers capitalize on these dreams, charging for opportunities to participate in pageants, concerts, competitions and other events. Even when these companies offer legitimate prizes, the costs associated with entry often outweigh the compensation. Of particular concern in the “ability” scam category are scholarship scams. These scams promise your child free scholarship money or opportunities—for a small application or other fee. In general, if a scholarship organization charges your child, pass.
Term Papers/School Work
Ok. Every parent or caregiver likes to believe their child would never cheat, but the reality is that the average kid generally doesn’t get a kick out of schoolwork, and that some children are willing to pay someone else to do academic work they should do themselves. Some individuals or companies take your child’s money, promising finished school work only not to deliver any goods. Alternately, the “provider” may produce a poor-quality result that doesn’t follow directions. Your child is in a bind in this case, because if he’s unsatisfied, he might not go after the provider because of fear you’ll find out about his academic dishonesty.
The “Mystery” Gift
Some companies offer children free “mystery” gifts with purchase. The mystery gift motivates your child to buy but ends up being cheap or not what your child wanted or expected. This is one of the oldest scams against kids.