Quick question: if a scammer was trying to pull off a con on two groups of people, one aged 13-21, and one aged 55+, which group would be more likely to fall for the scam?
If you’d guess the group aged 55+, you may want to think again.
Yes, older adults are a more vulnerable group that is also sometimes less tech savvy than their younger counterparts. They have long been labeled the age group that is most likely to fall for a scam. But it’s time for the young to face the reality that their parents, even if they may not have their own TikTok account or know what a situationship is, do know a thing or two about life. Apparently, experience and common sense born of age are quite the teachers.
A recent study by Social Catfish, an online investigation service, found that no age group has fallen for online scams at a quicker rate than people under the age of 21. From 2017 to 2022, the money lost by Gen Z grew close to 2,500% compared to 805% for seniors. In total, teens lost $8.2 million in 2017, and $210 million in 2022. While older adults still lose the most money to scams, teens are falling for them with the most velocity of all age groups.
Here’s why scammers are targeting Gen Z, what kind of scams they’re pulling off and what you, as a teen or parent of a teen, can do to protect yourself or your child.
Why are teens more likely to fall for scams?
It’s often assumed that, as the generation born with a smartphone in each hand, Gen Z is naturally savvy enough to identify online scams. Unfortunately, though, statistics prove otherwise.
One reason Gen Z may not be able to spot scams is linked to the fact that many of them had a Facebook and Instagram account of their own before they were out of diapers – and this is hardly an exaggeration. While most of us grew up hearing warnings about talking to strangers, they’ve been encouraged to interact with strangers online since they’ve been old enough to type. They’re also used to sharing the details of their lives with anyone who asks (or doesn’t). Is it any wonder, then, that they sometimes share too much information with the wrong people?
Another factor leading to the disproportionate number of Gen Zers who lose money to scams is the simple fact that this generation spends an enormous amount of time online. Consequently, they’re more exposed to scams and more likely to fall for one at any given time.
Scams teens fall for the most
You won’t find the ubiquitous inheritance and sweepstakes scams in the pool of scams teens are being hit with these days. Instead, you’ll find these, among other, common scams:
● Online retail scams. Scams promising free or cheap products that don’t get delivered are as old as the internet itself. But what may surprise you is that 83% of young adults who encounter an online retail scam will fall for it, according to the Better Business Bureau.
● Romance scams. Scammers target teens using stolen photos and build up a fake romance. When a relationship has formed, the scammer asks the teen for money.
● Sextortion scams. Here, a scammer sends explicit photos to teens and asks for one in return. When the teen complies, they’ll threaten to publicize the photo unless the teen pays up.
● Amazon scams. Here, a target will receive a text message from “Amazon” informing them of an issue with the delivery of an item they’ve ordered. Alternatively, it’ll claim there’s a problem with their Prime account. The target will be instructed to share personal information to fix the problem, which will actually give the scammer access to their account.
● Student loan scams. This scam isn’t new but will likely increase in prevalence with the recent and upcoming changes to student loan payments. In the scam, fake websites with bogus Department of Education logos trick students into sharing their personal information.
● Online gaming scams. In this scam, fraudsters impersonate real vendors selling in-game purchases. They’ll ply victims with phishing links, which give them direct access to the victims’ accounts.
● Fake check scams. Here, a victim will receive an authentic-looking check as payment for a new job. The victim will be overpaid and asked to cash the check and refund the extra. Unfortunately, the check will bounce a few days later, and by then, it may be too late for the victim to reclaim their funds. According to the Federal Trade Commission, people in their 20s are more than twice as likely to fall for a check scam.
How to avoid getting scammed
Here’s how teens (and everyone) can protect themselves from getting scammed:
● Keep the security settings on your devices updated with the most recent patches.
● Keep your social media pages private.
● Never share personally identifiable information online with an unverified contact.
● Don’t wire money to an unverified contact.
● Research the company posting any job you consider. Look for online ratings and reviews, a street address and phone number, as well as possible mention of scams.
● Never download a link from an unknown source.
● Visit sites directly instead of clicking on a link that’s embedded in an ad.
● Check the URL of every site you visit to ensure it’s legitimate, such as Amazon.com and StudentAid.gov.
● Choose strong, unique, and long passwords for all your accounts.
● Be wary of any website, ad or email that features poor writing and has lots of typos.
● Stay updated on the latest scams.