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Teens and Online Scams

Posted on Friday, March 26, 2021
Imagine my surprise when I open the bank account I share with my two working teenage sons and see that one has a very large balance in his checking account. So of course, I open up and check his account. To my surprise, I notice a $1000 deposit. This kid is 17 years old and works at a sub shop - he can hardly keep $20 in his account each week! So I pulled my husband aside and showed him. Our other teenage son overheard us and pipes in - "oh yeah, B got a sugar-momma"!

... A what?

Yes, my teenage son believes he stumbled upon some mysterious woman through Instagram that wanted to send him large amounts of money for him to enjoy. Oh boy, teens are not the brightest! So when dad and I sit down and talk to him about the scams and risks of talking to strangers and taking money from them, he is still in denial. After all, he did go straight to the bank and pull out $1000 cash - so it had to be real! AND he was "smart enough to block her on social media so she couldn't get it back"...

After reading through the messages, we pointed out his errors. Thankfully, he didn't give her any account information through a message. She sent him an image of a check made out to him, he took a screenshot of it, and did a mobile deposit through our bank. So the next day, I had him go straight to the bank and return that free money to his account! (I did tell him if it was there for two weeks, he would be able to keep it - I had to keep it a little fun because I knew he was getting scammed) The next day, that $1000 magically was taken back from his account with some "management" message on the withdraw. And they took a $25 returned check fee (excuse me for laughing at this whole situation at this point)! After that, his account was frozen and he had to do the walk of shame and explain the mix up to the banker to get his account unfrozen. And he had to do this THREE times because they didn't open his account back up the right way (I am snort-laughing at this point).

So B now knows that money is not free. Sugar Mamas are a scam. Never deposit a check that came from the internet. And if money magically appears in your account, leave it. Lucky him it was only a $25 lesson!

The moral of my long, drug out story is that we need to teach our kids about online predators and scammers. Sure, we all know to hang up as soon as "Jon from the Social Security office" calls us. And we know never to give our personal information out over the phone - but what about the internet? He didn't give ANY personal info besides his first and last name (which was already shown on his Instagram). He received an online check - that looked real and cashed out. My guess is, if he didn't block Rachel, his sugar mama, right away, she would have asked him to send her a small portion of that - aka REAL MONEY. And then the bank would have taken back that $1000 and he would be out whatever he sent her. I am not really sure how that scam would have played out, that's just my guess.

And it can happen to anyone. Look at me, I work for Family Watchdog - I monitor my kids phones and have talks with them all the time about being safe on the internet. It never even crossed my mind that I needed to talk to him about a fake sugar mama! So parents - take this time and talk to your teens about online safety once again! They are targeting people on social media now and nobody is safe - not even our kiddos!

Here are a few rescources and scams that are circulating right now. A simple Google search with different terms will bring you all sorts of links - including lots of Reddit stories of people who have been scammed!
Common Scams Targeted at Teens
Sextortion: Scammers Targeting Teens
Reddit: Sugar Mama Scam on Instagram/