Just like adults, kids get tricked all the time, online and off. Maybe it starts with that favorite uncle trick as old as the hills, which begins with “pull my finger!” Ugh. Go online to any law enforcement, internet security or government agency website and you’ll find really sad stories of good people suckered by scams that looked so real. In a tough economy our kids want to help us, don’t they? And sometimes they try to help us save money, or make money and fall for some of these frauds themselves.
Here’s a story about scam artists with a variety of tricks including some work at home schemes and some diet drugs “endorsed” by a celebrity. Simply by giving these bad people your credit card for a trial of their work or diet system and they can take it for a ride, enriching them on your credit. Other tricks include modeling scams where victims receive emails offering modeling contracts if they provide upfront expenses for registration, etc. Scams of this sort are so realistic and tempting the government’s Ic3.gov website has a dedicated resource site called www.Lookstoogoodtobetrue.com.
Just because your child is young doesn’t mean their online experiences will always be innocent. As soon as they stop playing the dedicated games of children or no longer just email and IM with the people you allow, their online world will have more risks. Practice with them so they know that online interactions can be tricky in the same way that real world transactions are.
Other common online scams that children should be aware of:
click a link to win a music player or tablet
take a survey to win a great prize
provide your cell or mobile phone number to receive secret information
chain letters in email form (with all the traditional threats and vile warnings)
sick children who will get a "transplant" if we click a link or "like" them in social networks
and so forth
Let’s say you were in a restaurant with your family and it was time to pay the bill. If you wanted to give your 10 year old some practical experience, you might ask them to go to the cashier with the check and some cash and ask them to pay the bill. What advice would you give them before they left your side? How about when they returned to the table? I’m sure you would mention that they should note how much money they were handing the cashier. You’d probably remind them to count their change before stepping away. And then before leaving the restaurant, you’d ask them to calculate, and then leave behind an appropriate tip on the table for your waiter or waitress. These are great skills to demonstrate for your children.
In a similar fashion, let’s get in the habit of discussing our adult online financial transactions with our children to a small degree. If you are buying a car or trading one in, consider discussing with your child the process you are using to evaluate your choices. Or if you are considering a change in your banking, show your child how you can evaluate banks and credit unions on their websites
A few questions for your children to help them spot online scams:
Is this item or opportunity time limited or unusually cheaper than normal? Why? Is there pressure to decide quickly? That is never a good sign.
Can you change your mind and return the merchandise to a physical store and get your money back? Why or why not?
Do you know anyone who has used this vendor before and has good things to say about them?
Was the offer included in an unsolicited email from a complete stranger?
Are they asking you for money to get involved in something that will earn you money? Why don’t they do it all by themselves?
Does the merchandise have all the legitimate receipts and proof of authenticity you would expect for legal items of that nature? Could it be counterfeit or stolen?
Note: Some scams involve work that sounds easy, almost silly, like receiving packages and re-shipping to foreign countries. It may turn out to involve illegal goods or stolen credit information and you’d go to jail just for being a party to it.