Identity theft and scams


Scam artists are clever. They tap into people’s weaknesses, temptations, fears and trust.

Because we like technology and the internet, they try targeting us teens in that very environment. If offers look too good to be true, they typically are, so watch out for scams and don’t let yourself be pushed into anything. It’s good to have your guard up when it comes to financial decisions and anyone wanting access to your private information:

  • Be aware of ads offering cheap electronic items like cell phones, designer clothing or other luxury goods at an unbelievably low price and never actually sending you the products once you’ve given them a credit card

  • Don’t buy anything over the phone from phone solicitors

  • Don’t give any personal information to anyone calling you on the phone or on the web if you are not sure of the source, especially not your full legal name, social security number and address, date of birth, account numbers. 

  • Information phishing: watch out for emails or pop-up windows asking for verification of account information, social security numbers, credit card information or other personal data - do not answer those as identity thieves often just phish for info on you that they can use and sell for identity theft

  • Don’t fall for false employment opportunities from companies you don’t know or haven’t researched as well as false credit card application forms - some scam websites require the applicant to give out personal information like your social security number and address that they will use to steal your identity 

  • Don’t fall for ‘get rich quick’ jobs that advertise on the internet; these aren’t real opportunities; more likely you will be taken advantage of (i.e. jobs like selling make-up where you have to purchase the products before selling them)

  • Contests: scammers offer contests with practically no chance of winning but with the goal of getting as much data on you as possible (name, address, age, etc.) to use for possible identity theft; a similar scam is a literature writing or art contest online where creative hopefuls send in their work in the hopes of a prize or to be published but once it is published, the teen gets a bill for the published work or gets asked for money in the hopes of a bigger prize

  • Scholarships & Grants: there are scams offering false scholarships or grants who solely just want to gain all your personal information (do your research and only apply from trusted sources) as well as scholarship scams that charge money for information on potential scholarships that may or may not actually exist (you shouldn’t have to pay for this information online)

  • Beware of scam eliminating student debt for college students for a small fee - once the fee is paid, the scam artist disappears without having eliminated the student’s debt!

  • Free cell phone services - it’s fun to get new ringtones for your cell phone but some companies advertise free regular services of sending new ringtones and images to your phone to use. However, they leave out the fact that their service comes with a big fee that will be added to the phone bill each month. Those fees can appear with ambiguous terms on the bill so that it’s hard to detect what they are actually for so that the consumer might not pick up on it easily

  • There are a lot of tax scam frauds around: i.e. scammers claim that your social security number has been hacked or abused and they claim on voicemail to cancel or suspend your social security number (they want you to return their robo call to give them your actual social security number); 

The IRS does not send you an unsolicited email; those are scammers trying to get your information;

Scammers calling people claiming to be an IRS agent and demanding that you pay them owed money to the IRS to pay via gift card or wire transfer (sometimes getting very aggressive saying that they will arrest you or suspend your business or driver’s license) or that you have a refund waiting from the IRS in order to get all your personal information

Be cautious with any mail you get containing information about accounts of yours. Don’t just throw away bank statements and bills, but shred them. Don’t share your debit card pin number with anyone, don’t leave your wallet lying around where others could have access to it. Don’t use public computers to access any accounts and avoid having someone nearby listening into a conversation you have with your bank. Anyone can create a website that looks just like the real merchant’s website and if you give them any of your personal information, you might be sending all that info right into the hands of an identity thief. 

That’s a lot of ‘don'ts’ and ‘be cautious’, but that’s the reality once we become financially independent. That independence comes with potential pitfalls.

When your identity gets stolen, it can be difficult to clear your record. Identity thieves might open up new accounts in your name, they might misuse the accounts you already have and might sell your information to other identity thieves. If you know your identity has been stolen, make sure to file a police report, review your credit report regularly and file a fraud alert on your credit report. It lets potential creditors know that you have been a victim of identity theft and they won’t approve new credit applications from you unless they are absolutely certain of your identity. Don’t give up. This can be a lengthy process. Obviously you are not financially responsible for any accounts opened in your name fraudulently, but you will still be contacted by creditors until the situation is cleared up.

Website tips:

Fowler, Janet. “Common Scams Targeted At Teens.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 25 Feb. 2020,

“Tax Scams / Consumer Alerts: Internal Revenue Service.” Tax Scams / Consumer Alerts | Internal Revenue Service,

Book sources:

The complete guide to Personal Finance for Teenagers and College Students Revised 2nd Edition with workbook and companion CD

By Tamsen Butler, 2016, Atlantic Publishing Group, Inc.

Why didn’t they teach me this in school? 99 Personal Money Management Principles To Live By

By Cary Siegel, 2018, Simple Strategic Solutions LLC

The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens - 8 Steps to Having More Money Than Your Parents Ever Dreamed Of 

By David and Tom Gardner with Selena Maranjian, 2002, Fireside, registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Finance For Youth: The Book

By William Stanton, 2010, Lulu Press

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