OSWEGO, NY – We often hear stories about senior citizens falling prey to online scams, but children are often targeted and may be more susceptible, said Thom Benedetto, an Oswego County Family Court Referee since 2009.
“Children are often incredibly trusting and naive, making them prime targets for crooks,” Benedetto said. “Scammers are heartless and they don’t care about the pain they cause. If you’re allowing your children to go online, it’s critical that you discuss online scams for their protection and yours.”
According to Symantec Corp, who produce Norton online security systems: “The first step in protecting your children from online scams is to educate yourself on the types of scams.”
For example, free one-month trials of some ‘amazing’ product. The fine print of these scams includes terms stating that after the trial period, you’ll be paying for the product once a month forever.
So be sure to do your homework.
Scambusters.org said: “The most common scam aimed at kids is usually an online sale ad for a piece of mouth-watering gadgetry—like an iPhone—at a knock-down price.”
Victims have been known to sell other stuff and/or use a chunk of their savings to pay for something that doesn’t exist. Often, they’re so embarrassed they don’t tell their folks.
Another frequent con that targets children is the talent kid scam. This takes many forms—an invitation to take a screen test or join a child model agency or a celebrity soccer school.
Sometimes victims are simply notified that they’ve won some sort of award or prize in recognition of their skills.
Other times, they are offered help supposedly to gain scholarships.
In all cases, the kids, or more usually their parents, learn they must pay a big upfront fee.
Then the opportunity disappears.
Children are also sometimes victims of identity theft when they are hooked by phishing and ID theft scams where they give away personal information about themselves or their family online.
“If it’s too good to be true, it’s too good to be true,” Benedetto said.
Here are the 10 common internet scams your child might fall for according to uknowkids.com:
1. Knockoffs. Kids love clothes, especially teenagers. They want to be trendy and have all the latest designer styles when they know they can’t afford it. So, scammers create ads for all these “discount” online stores that supposedly sell designer goods. However, designers do not license these companies to sell their goods, and all the products are fake. Let your children know not to be tempted by these online stores, because they are likely not what they advertise.
2. “Free” music downloads and ringtones are a tease. The purpose is to lure you kid in, for a limited time, and then inform them that they have to pay for further use of the service. The programs collect personal or bank information and charge your card with all these fees and can possibly steal your identity. Stick to music programs like ITunes, or just by CDs to play it safe.
3. Free Stuff. Most “free” stuff offered on the internet is a ploy to collect information. Tell your kids to avoid the freebies, they are usually a trap.
4. Kids also love contests because they love to play and win. They don’t realize the prizes aren’t real, and nobody ever wins. These contests are used to collect information and steal identities. Avoid online contests unless it’s for a known entity like a magazine.
5. Lottery. Teenagers may be attracted to lottery scams. Anything that requires you to send money to get money is an obvious scam. Most of these fake lotteries always require some type of wire transfer or bank information. Warn your kids to stay far away from “free” money on the internet.
6. Fake credit cards. College bound kids love the idea of credit cards, and scammers know this. So, stick to applying for cards from known banks, and don’t be afraid to call and check up on an offer.
7. Games. Downloading games opens your browser up to viruses. On top of that, some of the games ask for way too much information for the kids to play. Then after the child is hooked they want you to pay to continue to play. Just don’t do it.
8. Fake scholarships. College bound kids are always looking for money for school. Scammers target them with fake scholarships, and when they get their information, they steal their identity. Have your kids apply for scholarships through government websites, and financial aid office referrals. Parents, you can always call the supposed donor and check on the authenticity of the award.
9. Fake jobs. In this economy, everybody needs a job. Scammers target young people with these dream jobs and when the kids apply, they steal their identities. The other side of the scam is that the job requires some fake training that the applicant has to pay for. Real jobs rarely make applicants pay a fee.
10. Fake memberships. For small children, becoming a member of a club is exciting. But it can turn into a nightmare once mom gets the bill. Don’t allow your kids to join any type of online club or organization for any reason. Only you should be signing them up for online activities.
“Talk to your kids and help them to be aware of who is reaching out to them online,” Benedetto said. “They should never share personal details on the internet, and never agree to meet someone without parental permission. We can’t be looking over their shoulder every minute, nor would we want to. We have to prepare our children for what’s out there, while they’re online gaming, socializing, and researching for school. But we can monitor their activity and keep a dialogue going so we’re always in the loop.”
If parents suspect their child has been a victim of an online scam, they should contact their local law enforcement authority.
For other information on how you can help keep kids safe online, Benedetto said, visit The U.S. Dept. of Education site: https://www2.ed.gov/free/features/cybersecurity.html.
There’s helpful information there for protecting your child’s identity as well as tips to prevent cyberbullying.
Another helpful site is connectsafely.org with a parents’ guide to cybersecurity: https://www2.ed.gov/free/features/cybersecurity.html
In addition, many local school district websites have kid friendly internet resource links.