OK, Zoomer: Teens fall for online scams at faster rate than seniors, older victims lose more money

People 20 or younger have fallen for more online scams than any other age group

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Next time someone from Gen Z tries to school you on how much more tech savvy their generation is, feel free to share the results of this recent study with them.

Over the past five years, from 2017 to 2022, no age group has fallen for online scams at a quicker rate than people age 20 or younger, according to a study by online investigation service Social Catfish. During that span, money lost by Gen Z grew nearly 2,500% — compared to 805% for seniors.

In terms of dollars lost, young people lost $210 million overall to scams in 2022, according to the study. That's way up from 2017, when those under 20 lost $8.2 million.

But older victims still far and away lose the most money in scams. According to the study, seniors lost $3.1 billion in 2022.

In all, online scams cost people a record $10.3 billion in 2022, up from $6.9 billion in the previous year. The average victim lost nearly $13,000, the study found, but really all numbers may not be entirely accurate: Of the 5,500 victims polled for the study, 4,455 were too ashamed to come forward or file a report.

And of all that $10.3 billion lost, only $433 million, or 4.2%, was able to be recovered by the FBI, the study found, largely because many scammers are from outside the U.S., where the law enforcement body has no jurisdiction.

So why are young people getting victimized more often? It may come down to scammers becoming more sophisticated and adept at taking advantage of their targets. There's also the rapid increase in use of artificial intelligence online.

"The explosion of AI has given us a glimpse into the future of scams with new tactics such as ‘voice cloning’ and ‘deep fake’ videos making it look and sound like you are giving money to someone you know, trust or love," read the study, State of Internet Scams 2023.

A father and son were scammed out of thousands of dollars after accidentally using a copycat website to publish their books. Lynda Baquero reporting.

The truth may be even simpler, though: Younger people are online more and involved in more things on the internet, like social media, gaming, dating apps, shopping and more. That presents more opportunities to get taken advantage of.

Where do most scams take place? By far, Facebook had the most, the poll found,

Here are the top five most common scams that target teens, according to Social Catfish, which seeks to prevent online scams through reverse search technology:

  1. Social Media Influencer: Scammers will create fake accounts mimicking real influencers, then host fake brand-sponsored contests. They will then ask the "winner" to pay a fee or provide bank account info in order to claim their prize.
  2. Romance: Using stolen photos of attractive people, the scammers will target younger users that may be more vulnerable. They then will manipulate their target to fall for them, before asking for money.
  3. Sextortion: Once again using photos of good-looking people, scammers will send an explicit photo and ask for one in return. When they get the photo, the scammers will threaten to do share the photo or make it public — unless they get paid.
  4. Online Gaming and In-App Purchases: Younger online gamers get tricked into providing credit card information and downloading malware for rewards that don't really exist.
  5. Online Shopping: This one takes a bit more effort and setup by scammers, who will establish a fake website that appears to be selling items at a big discount. Those who attempt to "buy" anything send the money, which the scammers pocket without sending anything back. They can also steal the credit card and personal info of the victim, using it for potential future online thefts.

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