With digital being the flavor of the season, many parents, including myself, choose e-commerce platforms to shop for books, laptops, mobile phones, backpacks, and other items. Children joining the universities may explore property rental websites to find suitable accommodation near the university for online shopping. A lot of students also apply for credit cards during this time. All of these requirements put together will open up a number of opportunities for fraudsters to exploit.
Common back-to-school fraud types
According to the Better Business Bureau's Scam Tracker Risk Report, youth in the age group of 18-24 years are the most vulnerable to such frauds and likely to incur the highest median losses. Some of the common back-to-school fraud types are as described below:
E-commerce fraud: Fraudsters pose as sellers on e-commerce platforms and offer lucrative discounts on student essentials such as laptops, smartphones, and other gadgets. Lured by such attractive deals, students place orders by making upfront payments. In the meanwhile, the fraudster vanishes with the money, leaving students to wait for the product that never gets delivered. Similarly, for textbooks, fraudsters send out emails encouraging users to visit a certain website for discounts on expensive books. They trick users into paying for books that are never delivered.
Freebies/Giveaways: This is common method fraudsters employ to get users into sharing their personal details. Often SMS messages and emails are used to urge children to click on the link provided and share their personal details to have the freebies such as backpacks, clothes, school supplies, and more, delivered.
Property rentals: Fraudsters post fake or stolen details of properties for rent. They play on the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) and hasten students to make advance payments, lest someone else book the property. Once the youth makes an advance deposit, the fraudster escapes with the money, without the victim being able to trace them.
Social media: With the soaring popularity of social media platforms, fraudsters are exploiting them to post ads for hard-to-miss deals. Once the user clicks on these ads, malware gets installed on their devices or they are redirected to fake websites where they make payments or share personal details for the 'deal' to be processed.
Credit card fraud: Promise of discounts, freebies, and reduced interest rates, are some of the false attractions that fraudsters offer while luring children to fall for fraudulent credit cards.
Scholarship: Offering students to help with their tuition fees and through fake scholarship programs, fraudsters manipulate students into sharing their personal details. Fraudsters also request an up front processing fee for scholarships that do not exist!
Student tax: While there is no such thing as a student tax, fraudsters pose as representatives from the Revenue department and call students to inform them of their failure to pay the student tax. They offer to help students to make the payments and scam them.
Identity Theft: Stealing social security numbers of children and youth is particularly useful for fraudsters as their credit reports are still clean and can be manipulated rather easily.
Familiarity with the internet does not guarantee security
It is clear that as children and young students prepare to resume offline classes, they are at a heightened risk of back-to-school fraud. Although this generation is more tech-savvy and familiar with the digital world, they are still vulnerable to fraud and online abuse. Our study 'Navigating Internet Safety When Screen Time Becomes Full Time' reveals that familiarity with the internet can desensitize children to recognizing possible scams, fraud, and other online hazards due to an artificial sense of safety online. 65% of the young people we surveyed said they had never felt unsafe online—although, it is unlikely they would always recognize such instances.
The good news, however, is that at 42%, children are becoming increasingly aware of cyber safety. That said, there is still a significant concern among parents who want more resources to be available that can help protect their children online.
Making the internet safer for all
In addition to parents counseling their children on safety measures to be practiced while online, businesses, too, are playing a major role in making the internet safer for all through tools and awareness campaigns. As a responsible netizen, Arkose Labs works with many digital platforms frequently accessed by students to keep them safe from fraud and abuse.
To learn how Arkose Labs is leveraging cutting-edge technology to help make the internet safer for all, book a demo now.