Today's youth have never known a world without tools like the internet, apps, and mobile phones. They're creative, tech-savvy, and knowledgeable about all things digital – but that doesn't mean they automatically know how to avoid scammers.
Scammers employ various tactics, many of which are geared towards snaring young adults and teens who may be earning their own money for the first time or may have their parents' spending power.
So, how can you help your children become scam-savvy in addition to tech-savvy? We'll walk you through a few tips to help educate your child and a few common scams they may fall prey to.
If it sounds too good to be true…
When it comes to teaching your child about scams, one of the most important lessons you can impart is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Is a game system they want suddenly deeply discounted on a site that's not a familiar online retailer? What about that name-brand jewelry up for resale for a suspiciously low price? Or the promise of a free laptop in exchange for completing a survey?
Scammers prey on others' desire for material goods, money, and success and use that to trick people into giving up their personal or financial information. Teach your children to think twice before giving away their information in exchange for a "free" item.
And teach them the value of certain items and to be suspicious if they see something that's usually expensive at a drastically reduced price – especially if they're unfamiliar with the retail site where they found the item.
Sometimes, however, scammers try to cover their tracks by posing as a legitimate website or impersonating a well-known online retailer. Luckily, certain "tells" can indicate a scam website – teach your children to identify these inconsistencies.
A secure website – particularly one collecting payments – will include https:// as the first part of the web address. If you see an online shop that just has http:// in its web address, it may be wiser to shop elsewhere.
But scammers also often spoof legitimate sites, cloning their site layout and using a similar web address. Teach your children to carefully read web addresses for anything that looks odd – an extra letter or number in the brand name within the web address or even an odd "ending" to the web address. Legitimate commerce sites should end in ".com" as ".com" stands for "commercial."
Suspicious Links and promotions
Your child may also be tempted to open e-mails promising free items in exchange for completing a survey or promise them money from winning some kind of drawing.
Teach them never to click links from an unexpected e-mail and to carefully examine promotional e-mails from brands they follow to ensure there are no obvious, suspicious misspellings.
Before they click a link in an e-mail, encourage them to hover over the link with their cursor. This will display the link's destination – if that destination doesn't match the claimed sender, is a shortened link, or otherwise looks suspicious, counsel your child not to click it.
If your child is interested in buying something online – whether through an online retailer or a resale marketplace, talk to them about legitimate payment methods. For example, a legitimate retailer or seller will likely not request payment using a person-to-person payment service like Zelle or Venmo. In fact, these services should only be used when paying trusted friends and family.
Of course, there are a few exceptions – PayPal, for example, is commonly used as an accepted, secure payment method on many retail websites. So, a site offering a PayPal payment option may be safe – but a reseller sending a direct message requesting payment through Venmo carries much more risk.
First Merchants regularly posts about trending scams on our Security Center website. Staying informed is one of the best ways to avoid scams, so check back frequently and encourage your children to do their own research.
And our welcoming, attentive bankers are always available to talk with you and your children about common scams, how to avoid them, and how to safely and responsibly manage their money. Visit your local banking center or make an appointment using our online appointment scheduling tool.