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Tip-offs to Rip-offs

ModelingWriting ContestsPsychic Hotlines
Scholarship ScamsChain LettersPorn Traps

You Could Be a Model!model
You're in the mall when a person says "I'm a talent scout for a modeling agency. You look like the type we're looking for. Come to an audition." Or maybe you get a postcard in the mail or see an ad in the paper announcing an audition.

Guess what? The "audition" is just a way to try to get you to buy modeling lessons or expensive photos for "your portfolio." Some teens and their parents have been pressured into signing contracts for a couple of thousand dollars worth of lessons. Afterwards, the school didn't help them get any modeling work.

Poet and Don't Know It?
kid getting awardEver see ads for contests like "Win $10,000 for Poetry"? If you enter, you'll probably get a letter saying you are a "semifinalist" and your poem is so great that they want to publish it in a book. Would you like a copy of the book?... Just send $59.95.

It's flattering to be told that you have great talent–except when it seems that everyone who enters is told the same thing. If you don't mind paying $59.95 for a book with your poem in it, go ahead. But think about it. You were hoping to get money from them, but instead -- they get money from you.

Psychic Hotlinespsychic
Teens who call psychic hotlines to get a free reading sometimes get a nasty surprise when their parent's phone bill comes.

Mom: "What's this $25.99 on the phone bill?!"
Daughter: "The first five minutes were supposed to be free!"

You can't count on offers for "free" readings. The hotline might put you on hold, or waste a lot of time to make the phone call last a long time.

Scholarship Scams
Teens sometimes get scammed by con artists who offer help in getting college scholarships or financial aid in return for fees. Watch out for companies that say things like this:

"The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back."
"You can't get this information anywhere else."
"I need your credit-card or bank-account number to hold this scholarship."

For free information about scholarships and financial aid, talk to your high school guidance counselor or the financial aid officer at the college you plan to attend. Also, check out:

FinAid: SmartStudent Guide to Financial Aid

Chain Letters
envelopeYou get a letter that says, "You can get $46,000 or more in the next 90 days." It says you should send $5 to each of ten other people at the top of a list, and add your name to the list.

Don't fall for it! That's a chain letter. Chain letters that promise a reward are a scam, and they are against the law. People who get suckered into sending money just lose it.

Why chains and other kinds of "pyramid schemes" don't work:
A pyramid scheme is called that because of the shape of the layers of people it involves. If a con artist recruits 10 people, and they are supposed to recruit 10 people, and so on, it makes this shape:


You can see that in only 11 layers it would require 10 billion people to make it work, many more people than live on the entire earth! With no more recruits, the people at the bottom wouldn't get what was promised to them. Actually, pyramids fall apart long before then, because many people will not take part because they know it's a scam. But there are always some people who get fooled. Pyramid schemes keep making the rounds because of greed and wishful thinking.

Online Porn Traps
computer screen with money on itYou might think you can take a peek for free, but look out! Some porn websites do tricky things like disconnecting your computer from your Internet service provider and reconnecting with a company in some far-off country–and your parents will get a phone bill for $300!

Or, maybe you snuck your parents' credit card number and typed it in so you could enter the site. The site said you could view for free, but then went ahead and charged the credit card! No fun explaining to your mom or dad.

Some porn sites appear when you didn't even enter their site. And some porn sites have URLs (addresses) that are misspelled versions of other popular sites. If you get onto their site by accident, it can be difficult to close the window, or it might install some cookie or "spyware" on your computer that bills your parent's phone line. If a porn site window appears on your computer and you can't close it, tell your mom or dad. They might need to un-install whatever was put on the computer.

Also, don't answer e-mails from people you don't know or that have "adults only" subject lines.

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