For many, the first demographic that generally comes to mind when discussing victims of fraud are the elderly. Given that older generations are usually less up to date with the latest developments in technology and the potential risks that can accompany their usage, it is easy to assume that the elderly are more likely to fall victim to even the most basic of computer, phone and email scams – after all, individuals who did not grow up using the internet are likely less versed in ways to avoid its potential pitfalls. However, recent data supports the fact that the aforementioned, widespread assumption is in fact false, as scammers are targeting younger generations (i.e. those 35 years of age or less) at heavily increasing rates. A report from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) notes that People in their 20s and 30s (so called Millennials) report losing money to fraud roughly 25% more than people 40 and over.2 While these findings seemingly contradict the prevailing train of thought, it begs the question as to why criminals are targeting this age group?
The simple reason is that today’s youth rely heavily on the web and “smart” technologies for virtually all aspects of everyday life. With that being said, since many millenials consider themselves tech savvy, they are more inclined to freely share their personal information online without fear of repercussion or potential losses. Unfortunately, financial losses for this population are coming far more frequently than ever before. The Better Business Bureau’s ScamTracker Risk Report highlights the severity of this problem by revealing that 41.6% of college students suffered a financial loss when approached by scammers.1 While scammers are still finding success with phishing correspondence and other commonly employed tactics, the most cunning of fraudsters have continued to hone their craft and search for more effective means by which to make profit. As such, financial criminals have begun exploiting individuals by acting under the guise of known and respected government institutions (such as the postal service or the IRS with respect to the craze over the recent stimulus check issuances) to swindle individuals and make off with their hard-earned cash.
Scammers take advantage of the fact that millennials have a tendency to be less careful with their money and pay less attention to detail, specifically with online shopping, which has become the largest source of financial fraud affecting young adults in 2021. Often times younger generations seek to bargain hunt on non-reputable websites offering trendy items at affordable prices in comparison to offerings at name-brand stores. E-commerce staples in today’s society, a growing list that includes names such as Wish, Alibaba, and Etsy, offer a smorgasbord of items that appear legitimate or good quality online, only to be a cheap knockoff once delivered – if the item(s) are delivered at all. Where older generations are less technologically savvy, younger victims of fraud often simply lack the life experience needed to know when something appears too good to be true, which is often the case when searching for savings.
While much has been made about the human cost of Covid, the pandemic’s financial toll has affected young people as much, if not more than, any other subgroup in America and beyond. Criminals have employed scams such as faux-employment ploys to acquire the sensitive payment and/or personal information of younger victims, including new graduates eager to find work in wake of the pandemic, with good success. Scammers are well aware of the urgent need of a significant portion of the general public to find steady work amid the unprecedented levels of unemployment and mass furloughs that have come about over the past year. As such the creation of fraudulent website and phishing emails from fraudsters pretending to be legitimate businesses has skyrocketed, with these seemingly-legitimate listings most often redirecting users to other sites personal information is later pilfered. A basic step that has been highly publicized in the fight against financial crime of this variety involves verification of the websites that individuals are using to find employment, making sure that these sites have a secure connection designated by a ‘https’ at the beginning of its URL.
73% of people perceive fraud as an issue that affects older generations rather than younger. This naiveté is a problem that needs to be addressed — and quickly – via increasing awareness and vigilance on behalf of the primary targets of this ever-evolving form of crime.