Regrettably, the possibility of "getting scammed" has become an all too familiar concern. Usually, due to personal experience, it has become nestled into the subconsciousness of our "adult" minds to tread cautiously. Unfortunately, however, an equally if not more disturbing occurrence is growing that we all must be aware of. These "scam artists," otherwise known as "criminals," are now, more than ever, targeting our kids, teens, and young adults. "Why?" you may ask. Well, one reason could be that it takes our youth longer to recognize and report the scam. AARP has reported that "Resolving child ID fraud took families an average of 13 hours, longer than when adults are victimized." In addition, the FBI reported that 14,919 scam incidents were reported by people under 19 in 2021, totaling a $101.4 million in loss to the teens that actually reported them. One can only imagine the true total, including those who did not report such fraud due to possible embarrassment or the risk of getting "in trouble" by their parents.
So, what can we do to guard our kids, teens, and young adults? First and foremost, is to educate kids on common scams and things that they should do to protect themselves. The more our kids are made aware, the more empowered they will be and the less likely they will fall into such scams!
We have highlighted two of the most common scam-related areas criminals target in gaining our students' personal information and money. Please continue to read the following for some resourceful insight that you can share with your kids. It is our sincerest hope the following takeaway will aid our kids, teens, and young adults and make them that much wiser as they head off to school or go online!
For many, the "college experience" has been worked hard for, meditated on, and been the driving force in persevering through "hard times." So, the fact that criminals are scamming our young adult "kids" looking to afford college is nothing short of sickening. But, again, knowledge is power, and we hope the following will help guard you and your future college student(s) against any falsehoods that may be lurking. So, their college experience, from start to finish, is nothing short of amazing.
Scholarship and Financial Aid Scams - Sadly, scholarship and financial aid scams are an all-too-common trend. With the high price tags of schools, applying for multiple scholarships and financial assistance is not uncommon for those looking to attend college. And shamefully, scammers are looking to take advantage of this. Often, a scammer will call pretending to provide your student with financial resources. When doing so, the scammer will claim to need personal information and a bank account number to "deposit money" into the account. According to The National Credit Union Administration, "If you get a phone call from someone claiming that they need information to process an application, disconnect the call immediately. It's completely unnecessary for a legitimate scholarship provider to ask you to provide a credit card, bank account or social security number."
Fraudulent scholarship websites - Unfortunately, some scammers will set up fraudulent websites for those looking to purchase textbooks, apartments, or moving services, just to name a few. In doing this, the scammer is looking to collect email addresses, payment information, or other personal information for their own gain, leaving you with nothing in return.
Ways to avoid this from happening to your college student:
Refrain from making online purchases without validating the website and checking online reviews.
Check to see if the company is listed with the Better Business Bureau.
Ensure the company has an actual physical address and phone number.
If possible, get a referral from family or friends.
Paying for a Financial aid service - With deadlines and paperwork required for college entry and finding financial assistance, many can get overwhelmed and look for help in doing so. However, be careful! Many supplying this "service" will charge well over $1,000 for actions that the student or their family can complete for free! The FASFA is available and accessible for all to fill out for financial aid. Click here to find out more. In addition to this, you must be careful and do your research before trusting to hire for this task. Some scammers will use false information to fill out your applications for "more funding." If this happens, you could find yourself in a mess of trouble; any false information found on your FASFA could result in fines up to $20,000 and/or jail time!
The following are some "Do's" and "Don'ts" provided by the FTC when preparing for college and looking for financial aid and scholarship assistance.
Fill out the free FAFSA form to apply for financial aid. (It's the most crucial step you can take to get financial aid.)
Never pay anyone to fill out or process your FAFSA. That's probably a scam.
Talk with a guidance counselor (if you're in high school) or the financial aid office (if you're in college) about your financial aid and scholarship options.
Never pay at a seminar on how to get financial aid or scholarships. Especially if they pressure you to pay. That's probably a scam.
Do your research before you pay anyone for help with financial aid or scholarships.
Share these ideas with others looking for financial aid, too. You can help them avoid a scam.
As well, take a moment and visit the Federal Student Aid website provided by the Office of the US Department of Education. They provide free resources to help find funding for college.
Although many use social media platforms for positive reasons, others can take advantage and ruin that positive experience, making it turn negative quickly. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), "More than one in four people who reported losing money to fraud in 2021 said it started on social media with an ad, a post, or a message." (Please click here for more information and statistics on social media fraud from the FTC.)
Unfortunately, with this, anyone is susceptible, no matter the age. Still, with the rise of kids, teens, and young adults on social media, they have unfortunately been a primary target for scammers to hone in on. Even the most tech-savvy teens and young adults have fallen victim. The following are some examples of how.
Fraudulent Social Media Profiles - Unfortunately, this is a common scam to be aware of. There are many scammers known to create fraudulent profiles. This could be a family or friend they think they may already follow or know. This can quickly and deceitfully gain the teen's trust and, often, gain the personal information they need.
Social Media Influencers (Sadly, there are two parts to this category.)
"Someone" will casually glide into their direct messages and "offer" (what your child thinks is an exciting opportunity) to become an "influencer." They are giving false promises of sending your teen their products to use and promote. Sadly, your teen is left with nothing except the possible turmoil of identity theft in exchange for the personal information they have just given away.
Another little-known fact to make our kids aware of… social media "influencers" get paid for the products they promote. Many influencers promote a product just to get paid without first validating the product. The age-old saying still rings true, "Don't believe everything you hear!" Review, dig and do your own research first.
Fraudulent advertising - Ready for this? Many social media platforms do not verify their advertisers! Therefore, you think you are being forwarded to a website to buy all your favorite brands only to be on a "duped" site! Many have mistakenly thought they are paying for the latest popular item to be delivered to their doorstep, only to be disappointed and confused when the item is never received.
Provided below, we have included some ways you can help protect your kids from social media fraud:
Check your child's privacy settings on their social media accounts. For recommendations and how-tos, click here.
Set positive online examples for your children by practicing safe online behaviors yourself.
Limit and monitor the use of social media and messaging platforms.
Platforms that allow users to direct/private message (DM), friend, or follow other users via public search pose the most significant concern.
Always buy directly from the official website for the product you see on social media and are interested in.
(Google has designed a website check safety tool! Check it out here.)
We also recommend you take a moment and check out some of the safety precautions the following social media platforms have provided. To view, please click on each name YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Snapchat.