Loyola University Chicago

Institute for Consumer Antitrust Studies

School of Law

Lesson Plans to Caution Chicago Teens about Risks of Internet Fraud


Lesson Plans to Caution Chicago Teens about
Risks of Internet Fraud

High school teachers to get plans developed by Loyola, city on November 16


CHICAGO (Nov. 8, 2002) - Teenagers no longer need to ask their parents for a ride to the mall to go shopping. Today they can do their browsing and buying over the Internet.

But educators at Loyola University Chicago and the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) fear that teenagers are surfing the Net unaware of the risks posed by online shopping. Many online shoppers, adults and teens alike, unwittingly sacrifice personal information each time they log on to the Internet, information that often gets passed on to third-party vendors and, worse yet, to schemers whose only desire is either to defraud Internet surfers or to steal personal information like Social Security and credit card numbers.

With few regulations to protect teenagers as they shop online, Loyola in coordination with the Chicago Department of Consumer Services has developed instruction materials for CPS middle school and high school students to teach them about Internet risks and what they can do to protect themselves. Funded by a grant from AT&T through the Public Action Foundation, the lesson plans were developed by Loyola's School of Education and the Loyola Consumer Law Review at the School of Law.

"As one of the world's premier communications companies, AT&T is proud to support this project because we believe the Internet represents a powerful tool to enhance teaching and learning for families, schools and communities when used effectively," said Michael Scott, Vice President of Local Government Affairs for AT&T Broadband and President of the Chicago Board of Education. "By working with the Chicago Public Schools, this project will help ensure our students have the information they need to safely use the Internet."

The first of the four one-hour lesson plans will introduce students to privacy and security issues, including what information companies can access about people shopping online and how surfers may limit that access by changing security levels on their computers. From there students will learn about past scams targeting adolescents, risks associated with online contracts and resources available to them should they be victimized by Internet fraud.

Gloria Roth, acting Director of the Department of Curriculum for CPS, said the materials will be presented to teachers from 12 high schools on Nov. 16 and that it is hoped teachers will share the lessons with their peers at their and other schools. The lesson plans will be presented at a four-hour seminar beginning at 8:30 a.m. at the Medill Technical and Professional Development Center, 1326 W. 14th Place, by the project coordinators, including Loyola consumer law professor Jane Locke, Loyola Consumer Law Review members, School of Education professor Judith Hayn and Loyola graduate assistant Sharon Sokol of the School of Education.

"Teens are online all the time and they don't even realize how much they are at risk. Far too often they will give out information willy-nilly about themselves and their families without any idea of the consequences," Roth said." It is our responsibility to make sure young people are aware of those dangers. We don't want kids to stop using the Internet. But when we teach teenagers how to drive, we also teach them about the consequences of not being careful. We have to do the same with Internet use."

According to the research by the program designers, three times as many teenagers are surfing the Internet today compared to five years ago and 31 percent of those teenagers are purchasing items online. A quarter of teens online, though not purchasing items, are visiting commercial sites. Of those teenagers who do buy online, 78 percent are using their parents' credit cards. And these numbers do not necessarily reflect those teens who are using email accounts and who are chatting online, where they might also fall prey to fraud.

Locke, the faculty adviser for the Loyola Consumer Law Review, noted that as e-commerce activities continue to grow, up from $2.6 billion in revenues in 1996 to $220 billion last year, according to the Federal Trade Commission, more and more young people will be at risk.

"This increase in e-commerce means there are that many more opportunities for fraud on the Internet, and we have to make our kids aware of those dangers before it is too late," Locke said. "There are many Web sites that do not deliver what they promise, and at the same time regulating the Internet is very difficult. So at this point, to protect our children, we have to make them aware of those risks."


Contact: Nick Mariano
(312) 915-6158

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Founded in 1870, Loyola University Chicago is one of the nation's leading Jesuit universities. Loyola University Chicago endeavors to develop in the lives of students, faculty and staff the spirit of searching for truth and living for others, which characterized Ignatius of Loyola.