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Beware of scams targeting minors

Technology-Person at Computer with Pony TailIt’s Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

Young people and parents need to be aware of online scams targeting minors. Just like adults, scammers target kids through online platforms, such as apps, games, and social networking websites.

Young people are often attractive targets for scammers because they may have unused Social Security numbers, don’t generally check their credit reports, and are used to sharing information online. Scammers may pose as someone else in order to get young online users to voluntarily share information.

“Scammers don’t discriminate,” said Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford. “All users, even young adults, should be cautious about sharing their personal information. If we can help young people recognize these issues now, they can be proactive and protect their personal information, which may be their most valuable asset. The first step is to realize how much of your personal information is already in the  public domain.”

Inexpensive/free stuff scam

Many ads online offer cheap or free items for sale, such as clothes, sunglasses, or handbags. In some cases, these ads are a scam. An unsuspecting young adult may send money but never receive the item, or may receive an item of lesser quality.

The fake sale may also be an attempt to get personal information, such as user names and passwords, which would allow the scammer to gain access to the youth’s account.

Before purchasing items online, do research to ensure that the source is legitimate. Scammers often re-post a discount offer that was previously valid but will no longer be accepted by the retailer.

Use a search engine to look at customer reviews; however, be aware that sometimes websites post fake reviews to attract more customers.

Trust your instincts if you think that something seems wrong about the deal. Consider only purchasing from established online retailers.

Scholarship scams

Some social media accounts may promise to provide a scholarship, but are actually an attempt to steal your money or your identity. Often, these scams may promise to give scholarships to a certain number of new followers in return for a fee or personal information, such as a Social Security number, bank account information, or a credit card number.

Legitimate scholarships don’t charge any fees. Avoid sharing your Social Security number, password, or any financial information with someone offering a scholarship. None of this information is needed to verify your identity or to “hold” a scholarship.

Account deletion scam

Scammers may use messaging services on social media platforms to directly contact account holders and claim their account may be deleted or locked if they don’t click on a link to update their account. This link may appear legitimate, but when users click it, they’re redirected to a website asking for the user’s information, such as passwords, email, or physical addresses, or other personally identifying information. 

Beware of messages that ask you to click on a link to update your information. If you think you need to update your account, do it through the settings on the online app or website. 

If you think you’ve fallen victim to any of these scams, you’re encouraged to file a complaint with the  attorney general in your state or with the Federal Trade Commission.

Copyright 2020, Rita R. Robison, Consumer and Personal Finance Journalist

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