Why teens and young adults are more vulnerable to scams than older folk: Internet Scambusters #1,083
There may be many things that older folk are envious of teenage youthfulness, but falling victim to a scam isn't one of them.
Statistics show once again that younger folk are much more likely to be scammed than their older peers.
There are sound reasons for this and some simple ways to circumvent the crooks, as we report in this week's issue.
Let's get started…
Top Scams Targeting Teens and Young Adults
It's been said before but it's still hard to believe: Young people, especially teens, are up to twice as likely as seniors to fall for a scam.
We all know about the potential gullibility and vulnerability of older folk to scams. And it's true that, on average, seniors lose a lot more per scam than young people. But with their limited life experience and trust in technology, teens and young adults are actually far more easily tricked.
In fact, teens alone hand over more than $100 million a year to scammers, according to identity verification specialists Social Catfish. That's more than 10 times the amount they lost to scams just a few years earlier. It's the fastest growth rate of any age group.
What's going on?
Why Teens and Young Adults Fall For Scams
As suggested above, age is a key factor in affecting someone's judgment about potential scams.
Younger people may never have encountered a scam before and so may fail to recognize it. They lack skepticism and may also be over-confident about their tech abilities, attracting them to dubious apps and programs.
Bear in mind too that teens can be emotionally vulnerable and more inclined to take risks, especially with supposed money-making opportunities. Yet, at the same time, they usually have extremely limited financial knowledge and awareness.
They're also more likely to be lured by "free" offers and to be influenced by what their friends are saying is a good deal or opportunity.
The Most Common Scams Targeting Young People
Scammers know all this when it comes to selecting target age ranges for their intended victims. In the younger age groups, here are their main tactics.
- Impersonators/phishing. Social media posts and emails using familiar names or mouthwatering offers are the main sources of attempts to steal an individual's identity. People in younger age groups are by far the biggest users of social media.
- Influencers and talent scouts. Incredibly, an estimated 50 million people worldwide are busy influencing online followers, earning money by recommending products and services. Young people are more likely both to follow them and to try to copy them in hopes of making big money.
Likewise, scammers set themselves up as talent scouts, promising their victims that they'll help them hit the big time. They take photos that the victim must pay for and run phony talent competitions, again with an entry fee.
Of course, like them or not, most influencers are legit but it's hard to distinguish them from cheats and disreputable celebrities being paid to promote products.
- Jobs. Although research says 1 in 10 young people never intend to work, the rest of them are out there hunting for their first or new jobs. Ninety percent of employers use the internet for recruitment and that's the first place young adults look for work. Fake advance payment checks are the biggest source of scams.
- Investment. You may think youngsters have less money to invest but they're inexperienced enough to get drawn into get-rich-quick schemes, especially those involving cybercurrency or pyramid selling. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), younger people are four times more likely than older adults to report being scammed this way.
- Online shopping. The biggest proportion of online shoppers are in their 20s and 30s, but there are also more than 10 million 14- to 17-year-olds spending their money, sometimes falling for super-bargain tech deals that turn out to be scams.
- Sextortion. In simple terms, teens are easily lured into sending or swapping explicit photos and videos of themselves. In the wrong hands, these are being widely used for blackmail.
- Student loan forgiveness. With the huge amount of uncertainty about who may or may not be entitled to loan forgiveness, scammers are having a field day, charging upfront for services they can't possibly provide.
Protecting Younger People From Scams
You may be in your teens or twenties, or perhaps have family members in this age group. Either way, here are the key actions to safeguard against scams.
- Educate yourself and stay informed about the latest scams - and pass your knowledge on to others.
- Research companies and individuals you are dealing with and verify their identity before buying from or working with them.
- Don't pay for anything via cybercurrency, gift cards, or money wires. Maybe some requesters are legit. But just don't. You'll never get your money back.
- With very few exceptions, outstanding bargain prices are scams. Think before you buy.
- Don't lend your phone to someone you don't know, especially if you have payment apps installed.
- Keep your personal identity information, and your racy photos to yourself.
- If you have any concerns or questions about student loan forgiveness, use only the Department of Education's financial site, StudentAid.gov.
- Check grammar and spelling in ads. With today's looser standards in online English usage, teens and students are far less likely to check for errors than the rest of us.
And, if you're a parent or teacher, educating your kids about scam risks may turn out to be as important as the rest of their school curriculum.
David McClellan, founder and CEO of Social Catfish, mentioned above, puts it this way: "The biggest differentiator between somebody who gets scammed and somebody who doesn't is usually because they know what to look out for."
This Week's Alerts
More scam websites: The number of detected scam-related websites in the US jumped almost 6 percent to about 9.5 million during July and August, according to a report from Consumer Affairs and Trend Micro. The most common names used by the crooks are Walmart, the US Postal Service, and UPS. Read a full summary of the report here: Threat Alert: The Summer of Scams.
Same passwords: Despite repeated warnings about the need to use unique passwords for every website, almost 60 percent of ID theft victims got caught by using the same password across multiple accounts. However, 53 percent of victims switched to unique passwords after being scammed, reports the Internet Theft Resource Center.
Where are you? Investment property exchange firm IPX1031 has published a list of the worst and least scam-hit states. Georgia was worst, with 1,599 scam reports per 100,000 population. North Dakota was best with 559 reports. Check out how your state fared.
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!