Cybercrime and online scams have been on the rise. As society’s dependence on the internet and technology escalates, so does the number of scammers looking to prey on unsuspecting users.
There’s a broad spectrum of frauds, including cryptocurrency scams, romance scams, phishing emails, etc., that you’ll come across on the web. While some scams result in heavy financial losses, others target your personal information for identity theft.
The seriousness of the cyber fraud problem can be gauged from the fact that victims across various age groups collectively lost nearly $4.2 billion to online scams in 2020.
When it comes to cyber fraud, Gen X and baby boomers are often perceived to be more vulnerable. It’s understandable considering that they’re less tech-savvy and lack awareness about cybersecurity best practices.
But a few recent studies have challenged that notion. These studies reveal that the younger generations are walking into the trap of online scams faster than their parents or grandparents. Also, they’re more likely to have encountered cybercrime or fraud while browsing the web.
So, what makes the youth more susceptible to online scams? And what are the types of fraud that target youngsters? How can they remain vigilant and stay away from scammers? In this blog, we’ll explore the answers to all these questions and more. Let’s get started.
Online Scams & the Youth: What Do the Numbers Say?
According to a recent study by Social Catfish, there’s been a 156% jump in the number of young adults in the U.S., particularly those under 20, reporting they’ve fallen prey to online scams over the last three years. In 2020, they lost a total of $71 million to cyber fraud, compared to $8.3 million in 2017.
While the numbers are still higher for the older generations, the overall rate of increase of online scam victims in the under-20 age group is alarming.
The same age group accounts for more than 23,200 complaints to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center in 2020. That’s a remarkable increase from only about 9,000 complaints in 2017.
The 2019 Microsoft Digital Civility Study shares similar insights into the plight of millennials and Gen Z. According to the study, 69% of millennials and 66% of teenagers have encountered one or more forms of online risk during their lifetime. The risks include hoaxes, unwanted contact, and online scams, as well as behavioral and sexual risks.
On the other hand, only 59% of Gen X and 48% of baby boomers have had a brush with such risks in their lifetime.
These figures are surprising because Gen Z and millennials are considered to be more tech-savvy. They’re the generations that have grown up in the age of easy internet access. They’re already aware of the risk of using various internet-based services. They are even supposed to know how to check if a website is legit.
So, why are they falling prey to cyber fraud faster than older netizens? Let’s find out.
What Makes the Younger Generations More Vulnerable?
To begin with, most millennials and members of Gen Z are more dependent on technology than older generations. Their dependence on tech has skyrocketed even further during the pandemic. Whether they want to book a holiday for their parents or need to order groceries, they’ll turn to the internet for help.
Also, these generations are more open to the idea of online shopping. They’ll readily purchase expensive clothes, jewelry, and household appliances from e-commerce websites. That’s what makes them particularly vulnerable to online shopping scams.
Another factor that puts teenagers and young adults at risk is that they share various personal details on social media platforms. It increases their chances of falling prey to online identity theft.
Also, they’re more likely to let their guard down, and trust strangers they’ve just met on the internet. They use online dating sites and thus, are more likely to fall for romance scams. Their affinity towards influencers is another factor that makes them more gullible.
Millennials are also more likely to try their hands at new-age investment strategies, such as cryptocurrency trading and binary options trading. In a bid to maximize their investments, they often fail to check the legitimacy of the trading platforms and apps.
Protecting Yourself from Online Scams: What’s the Solution?
Irrespective of the age group you belong to, the risks of online scams and cybercrime still loom large. The onus is on every user to remain vigilant and keep an eye out for different types of online fraud.
Whenever you’re shopping online from a new website, check out their reviews and carefully read the terms and conditions. Also, check whether the website uses reputable payment gateways and standard security measures.
Similarly, whenever you’re applying for a new job, check the recruiter’s online presence and reviews before revealing any details about yourself. Steer clear of job offers that seem too good to be true.
Lastly, always be wary about trusting people you’ve just met online. If they refuse to meet you in person or even on a video call, chances are they’re trying to scam you.
Whether you’re using the internet to connect with your friends or diversify your investment portfolio, the next online scam could be lurking just around the corner. Younger generations are becoming increasingly vulnerable to such attacks because they depend on the internet for most of their daily needs. One more way to safeguard yourself online is using a virtual private network (VPN). It makes your internet connection private and cyber criminals won’t see anything but encrypted data.
It’s up to you to stay on top of the latest techniques online scammers are using to con gullible users. Also, don’t forget to check the legitimacy of any e-commerce website, trading platform, or payment app before you start using it.