The simplest advice for avoiding scams is that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Royal Credit Union has seen several instances of teens and young adults forgetting this advice and becoming fraud victims.
Most of these scams start online when teens share information with people they’ve never met. Social media apps like Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Whatsapp and others make it easy for scammers to collect personal details about their victims and start a conversation. The scammer then asks the teen to deposit a check for them. The victim is told to keep some of the money but send most of it back to the scammer before the check clears. Usually, the scammer requests money back using a method like Venmo or a gift card to make it easy to disappear with the funds. When the deposited check bounces, the teen loses the money that was sent.
We’ve also heard of variations on this scam. Some fraudsters offer to pay victims for pictures of their driver’s licenses or social security cards and then impersonate them. Others coax people into disclosing their online banking login information to send themselves the victim’s funds. Similar scams include asking victims to mail gift cards or posing as a victim’s romantic interest and requesting money.
It’s important to talk with your family about the risks of sharing information online. Teens may not be thinking about scams when chatting with friends or posting pictures online, but please take time to remind them to be on the lookout for suspicious activity. Here are some tips to avoid fraud online:
- Caution teens against connecting with people they don’t know. This could include responding to direct messages, text messages, chats, or even meeting someone virtually or in person.
- Be careful about sharing information. The more information a scammer has, the easier it is for them to create a story that will convince a victim. Be sure online profiles are set to private, and limit the information that you choose to include.
- Don’t deposit checks from strangers. Safer forms of payment include cash, a cashier’s check, or PayPal. It can take days for checks to completely clear even if the funds are not on hold, and the account owner is responsible for any funds withdrawn on fraudulent checks.
- Don’t give out your personal information. Never give anyone your online banking login, password, account number, or Social Security number. If you receive a text message with a code to enter on a website and someone asks you for the code, they are likely trying to impersonate you. Don’t give them the code!
- Trust your feelings. If someone asked you to deposit a check for them, keep $50 of it for your trouble, and give them the rest of it in the parking lot of your credit union, you’d think twice before accepting. But when the same thing happens online, it’s easy to ignore the feeling that there must be a catch. If something doesn’t seem right, trust that feeling.
If you’ve been a victim or suspect your teen has been a victim of this type of fraud, please call us right away so we can help. We have seen this type of activity aimed at adults, but the shift to targeting teens online is cause for concern. Please remind your family to use caution online and follow the simple tips above. Please also know that we’re here to answer any questions you might have. You can find more information about avoiding fraud on our security and fraud page. Thank you for helping us to protect your accounts!