Unscrupulous scammers targeting children and adolescents

Feb 11, 2024, 5:00 AM

Woman holds phone...

(AP File Photo)

(AP File Photo)

What comes to mind when you think of someone getting scammed? A grandma on the phone with some jerk? If so, this will probably surprise you.

The total money lost by teens in online scams grew by nearly 2,500% between 2017 and 2022. Victims under the age of 20 lost a staggering $210 million in 2022 alone.

Educating our kiddos on red flags is the first step in keeping them from becoming victims. That’s why I’m telling you about the scams and hacks targeting kids and teens right now.

🎉 We’re giving away a $1,000 computer! Mac or Windows, your call. All you have to do is get one issue of my free daily newsletter, The Current. Bet you’ll love it — and good luck!

‘Send me a pic’

Sextortion scams increased an alarming 20% between October 2022 and March 2023. Scammers used to target adults, but teen boys have become their latest focus.

I spoke with a lawmaker on my national radio show, South Carolina state house Rep. Brandon Guffey, who is working to bring harsher punishments for this kind of sexual extortion. His son was targeted and took his own life in July 2022. Such a tragic story. The family is now suing Instagram.

Common tactics:

  • Scammers create fake social media and gaming accounts, posing as an attractive young girl.
  • They start talking to a teen boy, send over some pics, and then ask for nude photos or videos in return.
  • If the victim sends one, the scammers demand a payout and threaten to post the incriminating photo or video for all their friends and family to see if they don’t pay.

The threat of exposure causes major panic, and many kids try to make the payments. Don’t wait to talk about this one with your children. Let them know you’re there to help if something like this happens.

Game over

Roblox and Fortnite are household names among both kids and cybercriminals. Both platforms have their own in-game currency, which requires a credit card and personal information tied to the account.

Common tactics:

  • Apps and sites may promise to pay out in-game currency in exchange for clicking on bogus ads. Spoiler: The ads contain malware that helps crooks hack into the account.
  • Fake websites often claim to sell in-game currency. Many look real enough to fool kids and adults.

Brand bandits

Today’s teens consider social media influencers a potential career path. Who wouldn’t want to make money just for posting online?

Common tactics:

  • In an influencer scam, crooks pose as real brands and reach out to teens with promises of cash or gifts.
  • They’ll send a message claiming they love the victim’s account and they’re an excellent match for their brand — as long as they buy a few things upfront to get started. Yeah, it’s all a con.

Safety first

It’s a scary digital world out there, and I want your whole family to navigate it safely. These tips will help keep your kids safe from scammers:

  • Have regular conversations about online dangers. Let your kids know they can always come to you with a shady situation.
  • Use a password manager on family smartphones and computers, and enable two-factor authentication on the apps your kids use regularly.
  • Make sure your kids’ social media profiles are private. The more info scammers have, the better for them.
  • Have your teen’s phone set up to block unknown callers and/or send them straight to voicemail.
  • For games with in-game currency, use a reloadable gift card instead of your credit card. Bonus: They can’t spend endlessly.

Keep your tech-know going

My popular podcast is called “Kim Komando Today.” It’s a solid 30 minutes of tech news, tips, and callers with tech questions like you from all over the country. Search for it wherever you get your podcasts. For your convenience, hit the link below for a recent episode.

PODCAST PICK: The meaning of “i” in iPhone

Do you know what it stands for? Plus, Drew Barrymore fell for a catfishing scam. Also, an AI-created ad targeting Hamas somehow lands on Hulu — we’ll dive into that. Ever wonder what it’s like to work for Bill Gates? I’ve got some insider info.

Check out my podcast “Kim Komando Today” on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player.

Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando.”

Sound like a tech pro, even if you’re not! Award-winning popular host Kim Komando is your secret weapon. Listen on 425+ radio stations or get the podcast. And join over 400,000 people who get her free 5-minute daily email newsletter.

Kim Komando

Person upset with phone....

Kim Komando

Here are the signs that you need a new phone, like, now

As time goes on, the battery level on your phone will drop. Here are the signs you should know that hint you need a new phone ASAP.

22 hours ago

Woman sitting at her computer....

Kim Komando

Here are tech life upgrades smarter than the stuff on TikTok

This story delves into the pitfalls of relying solely on online guidance, particularly in the realm of finance and technology, where clickbait and hype often overshadow genuine insight.

7 days ago

Anything connected is a hacker target, and you better believe that includes all the Internet gadget...

Kim Komando

Tech security to-do: Lock down your smart stuff before it can be hacked

Anything connected is a hacker target, and you better believe that includes all the Internet of Things gadgets in your home.

8 days ago

Family siting on couch....

Kim Komando

Unlocking online safety: The secret text code every family needs

For those who don't have one yet, here's a guide to a secret text code that every family needs to be using these days.

14 days ago

collection of streaming services....

Kim Komando

7 ways to stop paying so much on streaming every dang month

Maximize your streaming, minimize your costs! Read more about how to cut add-ons, watch what you love and embrace ads for savings.

22 days ago

Person typing on sketchy-looking computer screen....

Kim Komando

Is someone (or something) snooping on your computer?

Do you ever find yourself worried someone might be spying on your computer? Check these steps to secure your privacy.

28 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.


Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

Unscrupulous scammers targeting children and adolescents