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Be Prepared! 5 Scams Targeting Teens and Young Adults

Fraud predators tend to prey on teens and 20-somethings because of their life inexperience. It’s this naivety that puts young people at risk for fraudulent financial loss and identity theft. To help reduce fraud risk against young adults, we listed five scams targeting teens, young adults and students. Learn about the different types of threats and how to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Teens tend to have an “it won’t happen to me” mentality. But this article serves as a reminder that young adults are not invincible to scams …

Young people are comfortable and accustomed to sharing information online and virtually exchanging money without caution. They let their guard down, becoming vulnerable to online tricks and schemes intended to steal identities and money. Because of one small mistake, a victim loses money. Even worse, identity thieves can destroy a young person’s credit and put them into deep debt — which could limit their ability to get a credit card, loan, apartment or job in the future. It can take years to recover or clear one’s name.

To help minimize fraud risk against young adults, we’ve listed five scams and provided protection tips to help you or your loved one stay out of the line of fire.

Job Scams

Teens who are looking for ways to earn money show responsibility and drive — except sometimes they may find a scam, instead of a job. Job scams can work in a variety of ways:

  • Scammers offer an online job with flexibility and good pay. They request upfront payment for any necessary equipment or training.
  • A talent scout discovers the next big star — you! The catch is you’re required to pay for a headshot, audition or lessons.
  • A recruiter offers an amazing opportunity. All you have to do is pay for the placement services and the job is yours.

With today’s economic downturn, teens may find these fake offers to be attractive since low-wage service jobs are harder to come by. Make sure to investigate the job and hiring company, avoid too-good-to-be-true opportunities, and never provide account information for direct deposit until after you confirm the employer and job are legitimate.

Online Seller Scams

One way teens can make some extra cash is by selling secondhand items online via sites like Craigslist and eBay. It’s exciting when someone shows interest, but there’s always the risk that a buyer is a con artist who’s trying to get the item without paying.

First and foremost, never give the goods until you receive payment and it’s cleared. Also, watch out for an overpayment scam in which the scammer pays you more than the asking price and asks you to refund the extra. In this scenario, the payment was made by a stolen credit card and any additional money you returned is gone. Another tip is to only use peer-to-peer payment apps like Venmo and Zelle for payments between someone whom you know and trust.

Scholarship Schemes

“Congratulations! You’re eligible for a scholarship award! All you have to do is provide your personal and financial information on this acceptance form.”

Warning! Anytime you’re asked to provide info to get the award, you’re likely getting scammed. Another dead giveaway is if you’re required to pay a fee for the application or to receive the scholarship. CollegeScholarships.org warns that these phrases are big red flags:1

  • Guaranteed or your money back
  • You’ve been selected
  • It will only cost …
  • We have exclusive access
  • We’ll do all the work for you
  • You just need to attend our scholarship seminar
  • Act now

Along with sketchy scholarships, be aware of low or zero-interest student loan offers that require you to pay a fee. For more information on how to avoid financial aid scams, check out a guide provided by the Federal Student Aid office.

Fake Creative Contests

Scammers will target high school and college students by promoting a creative contest in which students can win a prize for submitting an essay or piece of art. Entrants may even have the chance to get their writing published or exhibit their piece of work in an art gallery. This scam entices students because winning a contest or having artwork displayed to the public can give them a leg up on their application for college or a job. Keep in mind, students should never have to pay to enter a contest, receive a prize, or have their work published or displayed in a gallery.

Instagram Sweepstakes

Instagram has evolved into a platform where influencers can make money by promoting products and services of sponsored advertisers. But that’s not the only way influencers can earn a buck. It’s common for an influencer to host a contest in which followers enter to win a sponsored product. Entrants typically need to like the post, tag a friend and comment. Similar to other sweepstakes scams, the “winner” is asked to pay a fee or give up an account number to receive the prize. If so, you’re getting scammed — never send money or reveal financial info.

Whether you’re a young adult or you’re looking out for a loved one, make sure you’re aware of these scams and that you, or the teen in your life, think twice before handing over money and personal/financial details.

Knowledge is Your Best Defense

Get anti-fraud protection tips by reading and watching our scam articles and videos!



The material presented here is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be used as financial, investment, or legal advice.