A new study found tech-savvy teens and young adults are falling for online scams at a higher rate than seniors.
Victims 20 and younger grew by 156% from 2017 to 2020 compared to 112% for seniors. The 9,053 young victims in 2017 jumped to 23,186 last year.
Seniors remain by far the most victimized group overall with 105,301 victims losing $966 million in 2020, but the surge of Gen Z victims is unprecedented and speaks to the growing sophistication of scammers.
Overall a record $4.2 billion was lost to online scams in 2020 and Minnesota was the No. 19 most-scammed state.
Parents and young people should remain vigilant when they shop, date, work, or socialize online.
Here are 5 Common Scams Targeting Teens and Young Adults in 2021:
1) Job Scams: The pandemic made it difficult for young people to find work. Scammers capitalized on this by dangling fake jobs that can be done remotely with high pay. They post on job sites and then request advanced payment for training. They ask for personal information during the “application process” and use it to drain your bank and commit identity theft.
How to Avoid: Be wary of any job that seems too good to be true or asks you for payment prior to beginning. Never provide information or bank accounts until you’ve investigated the company thoroughly.
2) Instagram Influencer Scam: Teens and young adults worship their favorite influencers. Scammers will create fake accounts that look just like the actual influencers account. They host a fake brand-sponsored contest and ask the “winner” to pay a fee or provide their bank account to win the prize.
How to Avoid: Never send money or bank information to anyone you do not know.
3) Romance Scams: Also known as Catfishing, this is when scammers steal photos of good-looking people and target young, vulnerable people online. They make the victim fall in love and begin asking for money.
How to Avoid: Never give money to anyone you meet online. If they will not video chat or meet, they are a scammer.
4) Sextortion Scams: The advent of smart phones led to sexting which has now led to sextortion. Scammers pose as an attractive person on OnlyFans or Snapchat, hooks the target and moves the conversation over to text. They send an explicit image and ask for one in return. Once received, they reveal themselves to be scammers and threaten to send the photo to all contacts in the person’s phone and post the picture on the Internet.
How to Avoid: Avoid sending explicit images online or by phone. If the person you are falling for will not meet or video chat think twice before sending anything.
5) Online Shopping: Fake websites are created that look like an online store selling items at a huge discount. If you buy, the item never arrives, they pocket the money and steal your credit card and personal information for future online theft.
How to Avoid: Make sure the website is not full of typos. If the “customer service” email is “gmail.com” or “yahoo.com” that is a red flag. Research the company.