Surfing the Internet means possible exposure to online scams, something your children might not have any concept of. If you’re allowing them to go online, it’s imperative that you discuss online scams. Such scams come in a variety of guises, including those that specifically target children.
Let’s look at how to best protect your kiddies from those who would scam them:
Educate Yourself First
The first step in protecting your children from online scams is to educate yourself on the types of scams currently floating around the Internet. One type of scam is the free trial offer, which claims to offer, 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.
“These guys are really shrewd,” says Christine Durst, an Internet fraud expert and consultant for the FBI and the FTC. “They know that most people don’t read all the fine print before clicking on ‘I agree,’ and even people who glance at it just look for numbers. So the companies spell out the numbers, with no dollar signs; anything that has to do with money or a time frame gets washed into the text.”
Other examples of Internet scams include faux Wi-Fi hotspots; social media and email messages indicating you’ve won an expensive prize or should enter a contest to win an expensive prize; and bogus pop-ups warning of supposed viruses and malware. The latter scam often looks like legitimate antivirus programs, but what you’re doing to “fix” your computer is actually infecting it with a virus.
Unfortunately, these are merely some of the many online scams that exist, so be sure to do your homework.
Learning the Signs
Once you feel secure in your knowledge of Internet scams, it’s time to pass this information on to your kids. Educating them about indicators of scams is important, with typical signs including:
Many Internet scams are rife with grammatical and spelling errors. If you receive messages laden with such errors about a “great deal” or contest, it’s probably a scam, even if it comes from a “friend.” However, there are plenty of Internet scams that contain flawless wording, as it’s one of the ways scammers make their messages look legitimate.
Messages from “foreign princes” claiming you need to help them transfer thousands of dollars, and simply have to pay the $150 wiring fee to enjoy a cut of the money, are now-classic online scams.
Manipulating emotions is another common scammer trick. Financial stress, loneliness, and frustration are examples of the emotional problems scammers prey on. They might not ask for money, but will insist on personal information, which they will then use to steal identities.
“Kids talent searches” are types of scams that target children specifically. These scams might suggest that a child joins a particular modeling agency or accepts an invitation for a screen test. They may seem real at first but always ask for money to continue “working” with the agency.
Another scam that targets children is scholarship scams. They claim to be recognizing children for academic achievement but, as with talent scams, require paying significant upfront fees.
When it comes to recognizing scams, keep communication open and clear with your children. Stress that they should always come to you about any suspicious messages or pop-ups they receive, and regularly discuss online scam signs if Internet usage is a big thing in your house. Scammers rely on children’s innocence, so consider limiting computer time in your home until you’re certain the kids are scam-savvy enough.