Scams That Target Young People

Endless articles are written about scams that focus on the elderly, which can give the impression that only seniors are targeted by (and fall for) scams. However, young people fall victim to a host of schemes every day. Many of these are just the same old tried-and-true scams we’ve seen a million times, with their approaches tailored to their intended group.

What makes young people susceptible to these scams? Trust in the digital world is a major factor—a world in which nearly everything can be done online is the only world many have ever known, and they inherently trust it. Additionally, humans of any age are easy to trick with images, and young people are no different, so their taking of social media images at face value is understandable. And of course, lack of life experience plays a role.

Money Flipping: these scams often originate on Instagram, with profiles appearing to depict fabulous material wealth. The scammer will offer the victim an investment that seems too easy to pass up: “Send me a few hundred dollars with CashApp or Venmo, and I will turn it into thousands and send it back.” Only the first part of the transaction ever actually occurs. Sometimes they dress it up as a cryptocurrency investment, or complicate the pitch in different ways, but it always comes down to some “secret” method of magically multiplying money.

Sugar Daddy/Sugar Momma: an (alleged) older person will contact a young victim, offering a generous “allowance” in return for online companionship. From there, the scheme proceeds into well-worn scam territory, usually either a fake check scam or advance fee fraud. In the former, the victim will be sent a check and instructed to purchase gift cards or Bitcoin, or make a wire transfer. In the latter, the scammer will request an upfront payment from the victim, to “prove” his or her loyalty. In other cases, the scammer will offer to pay loans or bills, then ask for financial account information. You can guess what happens next.

Blackmail Scams: the scammer, posing as an attractive stranger, will goad the victim into sending compromising photos, or convince them to meet in a video chat app (to capture video of the same), then threaten to distribute these images to the victim’s friends, family or workplace if payment is not made. Since the initial approach is made via social network, the scammer will have easy access to the names of people the victim knows, which adds urgency to the threat.

Drop-Shipping Scams: counterfeit fashion is rampant online, with websites offering deep discounts on designer goods. What actually arrives, several months later, is incredibly cheap, unwearable knockoff clothing or accessories, or cosmetics containing unknown ingredients.

Influencer Scams: a related offshoot of the drop-shipping scheme is an apparent offer from a designer to be “sponsored” by their brand (in other words, the start of the elusive, sought-after career as an INFLUENCER), which is then followed with an offer to purchase their items for 50% off. Here’s the thing: if they’re not giving it to you for free, you’re not an influencer, you’re a customer. And you’re going to get the same drop-shipped knockoff junk they sell to everyone.