For years, the elderly have been warned about a host of scams aimed at them. From “grandchildren” being held hostage unless the grandparents pay up, to the “driveway repairman” who takes $500 to repave their driveway and disappears with the cash. And after all those warnings, it appears older people have caught on.
So it turns out that the newest, largest number of victims are millennials. According to a recent report from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 40 percent of Americans in their 20s who reported fraud in 2017 said they lost money to scammers. By contrast, only 18% of Americans 70 or older reported money lost to con artists last year.
“Some of these older folks are doing a really good job recognizing fraud when they come upon it,” Monica Vaca, Associate Director of the FTC’s Division of Consumer Response and Operations, said in a statement. “They’re doing a really good job avoiding a loss and they want to warn people about it.”
This report confirms similar research in 2016 by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) showing that millennials were far more likely to be scammed than were their elders. According to the Detroit Free Press, more than 30 percent of the 25-to-34-year-old group surveyed admitted they’d lost money to fraudsters, versus 5 percent of those over 70.
“And even the moms and dads of those millennials, people ages 55 to 75, came in under 10 percent,” the paper reported.
In a story on the FTC report, CBS News talked with 29-year-old David Sigman of Los Angeles who was the victim of a work-at-home scam. The company, which he found online, signed him up to “mystery shop” local businesses.
All was going well until they asked him to evaluate money-transfer businesses by cashing a $2,900 check they sent him, then wire the money back to them. He did, and not only did he not see the money again, his bank called to tell him he owed them the entire amount.
“I felt violated. I was really beside myself,” he told CBS.
What’s surprising is that millennials are usually thought to be much more Internet- and tech-savvy, not to mention being generally more educated, than their older counterparts.
“I like to think I am fairly well-educated, and I was completely blindsided,” Sigman said.
Inc. magazine tried to explain why millennials are being scammed so much more than their elders and proposed five reasons.
First, they may believe they’re invincible. “They think that scams are for ‘other people’ and not themselves,” the magazine said. “Therefore, they end up making bad decisions and taking more risks.”
Second, they make more purchases online and are far more comfortable with the Internet than other age groups. “Millennials easily post their personal information online, thus giving scammers this added advantage over them,” the magazine said, adding that another study shows that 51 percent of millennials are willing to share personal information in exchange for a promised incentive. They also check financial information online, even on public Wi-Fi, don’t password-protect their devices, store financial information on their phones, and are more likely than any other age group to share their passwords.
Third, their culture of sharing everything, even critical personal details, opens them more often to the risk of scams and identity theft.
Fourth, they’re more likely to fall for work-at-home job scams. A FlexJobs survey showed that 20 percent of millennials were scammed searching for these jobs, and cautioned that “for every legitimate job, there are 60-70 job scams.”
Finally, they want to appear generous. “This is even further encouraged by the culture of sharing everything. Crowdfunding sites keep coming with a promise of helping the needy,” Inc. says, but scammers are operating there, too.
Inc., along with other security experts, offer much the same advice you’ve seen here so often from Billshark: Use strong passwords and don’t share them; don’t store sensitive information on your phone; stay away from public Wi-Fi; use apps or features that allow you to wipe out your phone’s data in case of loss or compromise; and, update and use antivirus and anti-malware software to protect all your devices.
And meanwhile, don’t forget to let Billshark protect your money by finding you hundreds and even thousands of dollars in savings on your bills.