You might think that getting scammed online is nothing to worry about – that it’s the kind of thing that would only happen to an older relative, or someone who doesn’t understand technology. And, in a way, you’d be right: these groups are among the most vulnerable to scams.
But the truth is that anyone can fall victim to a scam, and nowadays there are all kinds of schemes out there specifically targeting young people. Obviously, these are illegal, but spotting them can be tricky, especially when you find what you think is an incredible bargain or a tonne of money.
So, let’s take a look at some of the most common scams, how to avoid them and why you should never get involved.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of types of scam, but let’s just focus on some of the ones you’re most likely to face:
Clearly, getting scammed can mean you spend money without getting anything in return. But if the scammers get hold of your login details or other personal information, they could then gain access to all kinds of other accounts in your name – especially if you use the same passwords across the board.
What’s more, if you became involved in money muling, you could end up with a criminal record. The number of young people being recruited as mules has risen massively in the last few years – 73% according to fraud prevention body Cifas* – and even though you’re just the ‘middle man’ in the laundering process, you’re liable too. If caught, you could face a prison sentence and find it difficult to borrow money in the future.
And even if you’re not caught, it’s worth thinking about where that money has come from. It’s being kept secret for a reason, be it to avoid tax or to hide the fact that the scammer is profiting from illegal activity, such as drug dealing or human trafficking. Take a second to consider whether you want to be involved in this, especially as mules who agree and later try to quit can be threatened with violence.
This sounds like scary stuff, but fortunately there are some really easy steps you can take to avoid falling victim to a scam: