It’s often said that the younger generations (Gen Y and Z) grew up with computers and internet access, so they’re the most digitally savvy. It’s true that learning computer skills during formative years helps people be more confident with using computers and mastering software in later years. But in some circumstances, overconfidence and naivety can mean that youngsters are ripe targets for scammers.
1. The naughty chat blackmail scam
In 2013, the UK saw a spate of teens being blackmailed with lewd footage and photos of themselves. The scammers would pose as attractive teenage girls, inviting boys to an online chat and encouraging them to do things on camera that can’t be repeated here. The scammers would secretly record the act/s, and then demand payment under threat of releasing the material or sharing it with the boy’s Facebook friends.
Simple tip: Don’t agree to a video chat with somebody you don’t already know and trust.
2. Webcam hacking
One prominent scam in Australia involves taking over a person’s computer remotely and then locking it with ransomware. Basically, hackers take a picture of the person using their own webcam, and then take over the computer. Ransomware – a type of malware – opens up a page designed to look like an Australian Federal Police website. The fake site accuses the person of having broken a law, and asks them to pay a ‘fine’ by credit card, or risk going to jail. One Aussie girl had her school laptop hacked this way while doing homework.
Simple tip: Cover your laptop webcam and microphone with a piece of tape, like Mark Zuckerberg does.
3. Online shopping fraud
One of the most common forms of fraud that young people experience involves online shopping. Stretching back to the early days of eBay, teens have been tempted by too-good-to-be-true deals on everything from hot new sneakers to the latest Apple products. Unfortunately, the items they order either don’t exist or are not shipped. Scammers may go to a lot of effort to keep the money they get, including demanding payment via a method that doesn’t offer fraud protection, or offering excuses to prevent the person from reporting the transaction as fraudulent before the relevant deadline.
Occasionally, entire fake shopping websites are set up to capture the teen’s personal details and debit card info. This information is then used to steal their identity. They might not find out that their identity has been stolen until many years later, when they go to apply for a credit card or a personal loan for the first time.
The ACCC’s ScamWatch says that in 2016, online shopping scams costs Aussies nearly $1.3 million. Under 18s lost over $13,000 between 102 reported incidents. Older teens and young adults (18-24) lost $138,490 over 445 incidents. This higher number possibly reflects the fact that teenagers getting their first credit card are naïve about card security and online shopping security.
- If an offer looks too good to be true, it probably is. Two red flags are massive discounts, and stock that’s suddenly available when sold out everywhere else.
- Look for online stores and online auction sellers that have good reviews and ratings from real people.
 See for example http://www.sunshinecoastdaily.com.au/news/scammers-target-teen/1758628/ and https://www.pedestrian.tv/news/arts-and-culture/aussie-online-porn-consumers-exposed-and-conned-by/868dedf2-e89e-41cc-b642-9baf2dc9db77.htm