It’s unfortunate, but in an age where technology is king, fraud should be top-of-mind for anyone who has a personal device like a cell phone, tablet, or laptop; anyone who has made an online purchase; or anyone who’s engaged in any other – even less technology-centric – forms of sharing information, especially financial information.
Elder fraud reportedly accounts for at least $36 billion each year in losses for older Americans. However, the older population isn’t the only one at risk. Teens and young adults can also fall victim to similar scams.
Knowing the common forms of fraud and scamming that target teens and young adults – and how to defend against them – may significantly reduce the risk of you or someone you love falling victim to fraud.
To help you feel and be safer, here are three forms of fraud to guard against.
Scholarship, Grant, and Financial Aid Fraud
As the cost of education continues to rise, many people fall victim to scams based around false scholarships, grants, and financial aid. Perpetrators usually ask for sensitive data like social security numbers and bank account information to “verify” your eligibility or identity. Their true aim is to steal personal information and gain access to your financial accounts.
A key sign of these scams is that they require a “small payment” or offer a “money-back guarantee” before providing an application or information. This is an immediate red flag.
Here are a few ways to avoid scholarship, grant, and financial aid fraud:
- Work directly with the school you are interested in attending. Many institutions provide safe financial resources that are shared via a reputable representative of the university or trade school.
- If you are applying for financial aid (FAFSA), use the official .gov site to track deadlines and other filing needs.
- Work closely with your high school guidance counselor who may direct you to free online services like Scholly and Fastweb.
- Do not apply for or accept scholarships that require an upfront payment.
- Contact your local credit union to help you evaluate the option of student loans.
Teenagers and young adults spend nearly nine hours every day consuming media online, whether it’s on social media platforms, websites, or apps. This media often calls for engagement, opening a two-way conversation of sorts. While a comment on a friend’s photo can be harmless, some situations can expose teens and young adults to information phishing and put them at financial risk.
These are some things to avoid when spending time online:
- Non-reputable apps and programs that require an exchange of information, or a “simple, one-time payment” before they can be downloaded.
- Online quizzes that request or require personal information
- Online donations that are emotionally driven and seem worthwhile, but don’t ultimately go to the intended recipient.
Many of these risks may seem like no big deal – “Oh, I lost 5 bucks, oh well.” But, the reality is that scammers can continue to debit your account or credit card after the initial payment. And while teenagers and young adults often assume that the information “required” or acquired online is intended for simple marketing purposes, it can be used repeatedly by the phishing outlet or sold to third-party companies that will retarget fraud victims.
Be smart. Don’t give out financial and personal information without hesitation and research.
Money Prizes and Money Transfers
Money-based prizes and money-transfer scams operate in a different way. While these forms of scamming don’t initially target only teens and young adults, they are the group that often falls victim to them.
These scams usually run a little something like this: the targeted individual receives a text or direct message via a social media platform telling them that they’re a “winner,” “recipient,” or something similar. If the target responds the scammer will then ask for financial or personal information that would allow them to access financial accounts.
Fraudsters running these types of schemes can pose as a radio station, IRS representative, or foreign business person. They may play on your geographic location or your specific age.
Dealing with fraud does not have to be intimidating or overly alarming. Learning to identify red flags, protecting your assets, and knowing when to get help from trusted financial advisors will make it easier to keep yourself or your beloved teenagers and young adults financially safe.
If you feel your information has been compromised, contact your respective financial institution or credit card provider. The sooner you report any issue of fraud or suspect charges, the safer you will be.
Additional resources for Montanans who would like to learn more, report a scam, or file a complaint:
- Montana Department of Justice – Office of Consumer Protection
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call: 800-472-6896