Teens are very savvy when it comes to whizzing about online. They get to grips with new interfaces in minutes and find their way around new software like a boss. Despite this seeming innate online wizardry they’re also much more likely to fall for scams because they’re not quite clued up about the lengths fraudsters will go to.

This is where parents and carers can step in by arming them with the knowledge they need to avoid the skanky scamsters. So where do you start?
  • The first step is a bit of self-education to familiarise yourself with common online scams. While scams can change their surface appearance beneath the surface they often remain the same. 
  • Phishing mails are one of the most common and typically trumpet ‘amazing’ deals while bearing malware-laden attachments. Some mails claim the recipient has won a prize and try to lure people into entering competitions, some urge a victim to open an attachment and some try to frighten recipients by saying unusual spending has been detected on a card or in an account. Others say a parcel needs collecting, important information must be returned or a user has been locked out of an account. 
  • Bogus pop-ups that warn of viruses and malware are also common. These may seem legitimate at first glance but rather than ‘repair’ a computer they actually infect it with malware. They usually ‘shriek’ with dire doom-laden warnings. Also fake social media ads are still a bit of thing; they try to get someone to click through to webpage that may be infected or asks for personal information.

Gaining an understanding of these common scams is like building a foundation of knowledge. On top of this are scams specifically targeted at teens.
  • Loans

Teens are always strapped for cash and shiny online ads or phishing mails targeting students and offering relatively large amounts of money can be a trap that sees teens either get sucked into a deep spiral of debt or have their personal information stolen for ID fraud. 
  • High-end tech

Who doesn’t like a shiny new piece of kit? As teens head back to school or are set to start university they could easily fall prey to phishing mails that offer ‘fantastic’ deals on high-end tech. These deals have no substance; they are typically used as a lure to entice people into parting with their personal information or to get them to pay for something they will never receive. 
  • Manipulation

Scammers will use all sorts of tricks to exploit the unwary including ads and mails designed to manipulate emotions. They might offer help or advice for loneliness, stress and frustration but if someone responds they will get little back. These online tricks don’t ask for money rather they attempt to get victims to part with their personal information so it can be used for ID fraud. 
  • Scholarships

Aimed specifically at young teens and students and dressed up as emails that claim to recognise academic talent and potential they will ask for upfront fees. But nothing is ever delivered in return. 
  • Model agencies

Teens can also be targeted by ruthless con artists who claim they can make money on the side by engaging in modeling. They may seem legitimate but if they ask for money to work with an agency or payments to be made after an initial photo shoot they are scams. 
  • Phishing mails

Phishing mails are pernicious. They can seem legitimate and typically come with an attachment which if downloaded releases malware into the computer. This malware can be designed to steal personal data or even unleash ransomware. 
  • Fake Wi-Fi hotspots

Wi-Fi hotspots are easy to fake for skilled hackers. They simply need a laptop, or even a smartphone, free software downloaded from the internet and an off-the-shelf communication device which can mimic public Wi-Fi hotspots. Public Wi-Fi has no form of identification except the network name so it’s easy for hackers to intercept wireless communications and siphon off personal data like passwords and bank details.

Helping the kids become scam savvy

The bottom line with most scams is that they invariably make offers that seem too good to be true in an attempt to lure victims. This alone is a red flag. Also look out for spelling and grammatical errors. That said some scams are sophisticated and the language can be flawless so it pays to be extra cautious.

Phishing mails for instance can be very clever and made to look as though they come from a legitimate organization.  If an email is not expected and it comes with an attachment at the very least exercise a degree of caution and phone the company in question to verify authenticity.

Teens may already be aware of some of these scams but it does no harm to educate them about how wide-ranging and specific scams can be.  It’s also important to point out that good internet security software is fundamental to guard against malware and a VPN is perfect for foiling hackers who mimic public Wi-Fi hotspots.