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Scams Targeting Teens - How to Keep Your Family Safe

Posted on by Dawna M. Roberts in CrimeJanuary 08, 2021

As a parent, you want to do all you can to keep your family safe. If you have teens living in your home, you will want to be aware of these specific scams that target young adults. 

online scams

The Problem

Teens and young adults are inexperienced and more trusting, and they can be easy to manipulate. Young people are also desperate to fit in, making them easy targets for scammers, hackers, and criminals. 

The FTC claims that roughly 40% of scam victims are under the age of 29. Teens are very digital savvy, but they are less educated when it comes to protecting themselves against fraudsters. 

The Scams

Below are the most popular scams targeting teens and young adults.

Knock-Offs/Inexpensive Fraudulent Products

Since young people often don't know the difference, they may jump on ads they see for inexpensive top-brand items. Once they plunk down their babysitting money, they receive something that is "not as advertised" and pure junk. Luxury items don't go on sale for the prices advertised, and your teen has been duped. 

Social Media Scams

Since teens live on social media, it's a great way for scammers to get to them. They use pop-up ads to lure kids in with promises of free money for taking surveys, prizes, or simply rewards for providing information. If your naive teen enters their information, their identity may be stolen, causing a lot more damage. 


Your teen receives an email or sees a pop-up on a trendy website saying they have won a prize. They won't know not to click the link, which then infects their device with malware. In some scenarios, the criminals simply ask your young one to send a small "fee" for taxes, insurance, or shipping. They will never actually see any prize if they do. 

Identity Theft Scams

Identity thieves will try various ways to get your teen to hand over their personally identifiable information (PII). Always counsel your kids not to give anyone their name, address, social security number, or birthdate unless you are involved. 


As teens mature towards adulthood, they will start preparing to enter college. When they apply for scholarships or grants to help with the cost, they may encounter scams. There are a lot of legitimate scholarship programs available, but there are just as many scams out there too. If one of these programs asks for a fee upfront, it is probably a scam. 

Make Money Quick Scams

We've all seen them, ads that promise big money for doing very little. Often these scams involve pyramid schemes and other illegitimate ways to make money that don't ever result in anything except a lot of work and frustration. A kid looking to make money may jump at the chance to make a lot of cash quickly. Inform your kids about these "too good to be true" offers.

money scams

Fake Jobs

Watch out for fake job ads. The legitimate job boards are littered with scammers looking to snag new victims. Jobs promising big pay for very little is a red flag. Another scam is when they ask your teen to simply deposit checks and pay the money back out with their own check. What they don't realize is that the check they were sent is fake and will bounce, so now they are out their hard-earned money. 

Online Auctions

Online auctions are a great way to buy and sell used goods. However, these platforms are rife with fraudsters just waiting to pounce. If your teen tries to sell something online, make sure they do not send out the goods until the payment has fully cleared. Often fraudsters will urge the seller to send out the goods before they have issued payment. Make sure your kids know never to take the conversation offline (meaning out of the auction platform); this is another tactic used by scammers. Before allowing your teenager to buy something in an online auction, do your homework, check out the seller, read reviews, and make sure the product is legitimate. 

Free Stuff

Everyone loves free stuff. Teens may not be educated on the practice of scammers offering free downloads, software, and games but what they are really getting is a bag full of malware. Sit down with your kids and inform them of the dangers of accepting anything "free" online; it usually comes with strings. 


Kids may be excited by the prospect of taking surveys to get a free gift card, and those do exist, but many survey opportunities are simply a ruse to get your information for identity theft.

How to Keep Your Kids Safe

Some other tips to keep your kids safe are:

  • Explain all the dangers to your kids and help them stay safe online.
  • Install and run frequently robust antivirus software on all your kids’ devices.
  • Explore the internet with your kids and show them examples of these dangers, so they know what to look for.
  • Have a policy that they "ask first" before taking any action online.
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