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Table of Contents

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Published on Sep 15, 2023
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Sophia Clark

Common Online Scams Luring Young Minds

The youth of today have grown up in a world surrounded by smartphones, computers, and other innovative technology. While technology can be a blessing, it also exposes children and teens to an onslaught of online scams. These types of scams prey on the naivety and vulnerability of young people, whether the ultimate goal is to extract money or steal information. Below, we discuss the most common online scams targeting young minds.

Online Shopping Scams

Teens and millennials are big into online shopping, which is no problem when they use legitimate businesses like Amazon. However, young people are often pulled into fake shopping sites designed to steal information and money or to download malware. Scammers do this by following the latest shopping trends and offering too-good-to-be-true deals at a fraction of the RRP. Alternatively, the prices are real but the products received are counterfeits or knock-offs.


The gaming industry is worth more than $250 billion globally, and it’s growing every year. Where there’s money involved, scammers often aren’t far behind. When it comes to young people, games like Fortnite and Minecraft involve in-game money and other assets that can be purchased using real cash.

Criminals exploit this by setting up attractive “offers” of free virtual money or items for a variety of different games. The reality is that there’s no money behind the offer, it’s just a scam designed to steal personal information or get away with money. Alternatively, scammers create websites selling games at low prices, but the download file contains malware and spyware.

Social Media Scams

The majority of social media platforms have a 13+ user policy, but the reality is that people of all ages use them by simply inputting a false date of birth. There’s a lot of joy to be had from social media, especially when it comes to gaming and connecting with friends, but scammers know how and when to target young people.

The most common social media scam is identity theft, which is mostly committed through online surveys or catfishing. Although these are the most prevalent scams on social media, you will find practically every other scam in this article across various platforms.

Weight Loss Scams

Issues with body image are all too common among young people. Social media has received significant backlash for the role it plays, but it’s the scammers adding fuel to the fire by manipulating these insecurities with malicious intent that are the real problem. They use body issues to entice young people to spend money on dangerous or pointless items like diet pills, which start with a free trial but soon turn into expensive subscription payments.

To fight back against these atrocious scams, it’s important to educate young people about the importance of eating healthy and exercising regularly. They have to understand that the shortcuts offered by scammers aren’t a reality.

Smartphone Freebies

In 2023, almost every teen will have a smartphone, which is why scammers have flooded the space with attractive offers that deliver wallpapers and ringtones. Even though these digital items may be delivered, the hidden reality is the extortionate monthly subscription the young person has unwillingly entered into, most likely on their parent's credit card. In many cases, the payments show up with confusing titles and there’s no company to contact to resolve the issue.

To avoid paying the cost and having to navigate lengthy disputes with your bank, make sure you’re protecting your family online by educating your children about common scams and monitoring their activity online.

Webcam Security

The majority of computer devices have a webcam these days, and they’re extremely useful for communicating with others, attending online classes, or shooting TikTok videos. However, scammers know how to hack into systems with poor internet security, which allows them to access uncovered webcams.

By having access to unfiltered footage, scammers can steal images and videos and use them to blackmail victims and family members into paying huge sums. What makes these scams so believable is how much personal information they can gather, but this is mostly lifted from social media platforms.

Online Auctions

Digital auctions aren’t new; eBay has been doing them since 1995. The long-established nature of online auctions is what makes them so appealing to scammers since young people are likely to trust them. In most cases, the victim pays for an item via a fake auction (they always win). However, the purchased items either never existed in the first place or didn’t arrive. Alternatively, auction representatives (scammers) convince victims to send off their possessions to be auctioned, and this is when the scammer disappears.

Talent or Skill Contests

Modeling and acting scams are abundant on the internet, which brings us to talent or skill contests that are designed to lure aspiring teens. For example, a young person may dream of creating music, drawing, writing books, or any other fame-yielding career.

Scammers know this, which is why they set up fake talent websites promising fame and fortune. The scam competitions promise the winners support in their careers, which comes at an additional cost to the entry fees. Plot twist, every entrant wins, and the people behind the scam simply rake in the money.

Phishing Scams

When you say “phishing” out loud, you’ll realize it sounds just like “fishing”, which is exactly what it is. However, this involves criminals phishing for information, including usernames, passwords, bank details, and other sensitive information.

Scammers use many different tactics to draw out this information, but most of them involve “urgent” emails designed to redirect people to phony websites that look authentic. Once there, victims input their personal details and send them straight to the scammers.

Once criminals have access to personal information, they can sell it on the dark web or use it to break into accounts and lock owners out. To overcome these issues, it’s essential to learn how to spot fake emails and set up security features like two-factor authentication (2FA).

Keeping Young People Safe

The digital space is full of legitimate entities providing excellent services and resources, but it’s always best to approach anything new with extreme caution. The first step in tackling online scams is educating your children about common signs and the real dangers. Next, it’s time to run a full security analysis, including profile data sharing and monitoring software.

From the point of view of a young person, here are a number of steps to follow when using the Internet:

  • Learn about reverse searching and get some practice.
  • Never click unknown links, even when they come from friends.
  • Only give out personal information if you can 100% trust the person or business using it.
  • Unwanted messages, texts, or emails containing offers should be treated with caution.
  • Use strong passwords and avoid having the same password for every platform.
  • Always check online reviews before engaging with a new business.
  • Never make payments to secure entry into contests.
  • Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to speak to a trusted adult if you’ve been scammed or you’re unsure of suspicious activity.

Young people make easy targets for scammers because of their lack of life experience. As parents, it can be difficult to know when your children have become scam victims, so make sure you familiarise yourself with the above and be vigilant 100% of the time.

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