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Even millennials get caught in online scams

November 20, 2019

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Identity theft is a growing problem for parents looking to protect their children. Here’s how you can cover this important topic. (Photo via Pexels)

Clever fraudsters troll every age group, but tech-savvy Millennials are especially attractive to online scammers, warns the Scam Tracker from the Better Business Bureau(BBB)—25% more likely, in fact, than those 40 and over.

The latest online scam involves activation services for Alexa, Roku, Google Home and other tech devices. Activation services are free, but some unwary Millennials are paying $80 to $100 for phony “help.”  More than any other group, U.S. consumers in their 20s and 30s are also victims of online shopping frauds, business imposters, government imposters, fake check scams, and romance scams.

But these young readers are also much more likely to lose less money and report a loss, which makes this an inviting story for business reporters to look into by asking one or all of the following three questions:

How does the latest online scam work?

As all scams work: when consumers don’t pay attention or take the time to challenge what they hear. Tech-trusting Millennials can wind up connecting to a fake activation website after buying a new device. Next, a phony customer service rep tells them that the free activation policy has changed, and asks for their credit card number or worse, a pre-paid debit or gift card and access to their new device. Ask your young readers if they’ve fallen victim to this new online scam and if they’ll share their stories. The Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel reports that Millennials are 25% more likely than people over 40 to report losing money to fraud, but they are also much more likely to report a loss on certain types of fraud than older consumers. 

How can Millennials protect themselves against online scams?

Some lessons are obvious: make sure you’re visiting an official website. Be wary of sponsored links that pop up in your web browser. And never make a payment with a prepaid debit or gift card. Ask your young readers what they’ve learned, and how their experiences have changed their online behavior. Invite an online expert to join your panel to answer questions. Check out the report the joint report issued by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, the BBB and the Stanford Center for Longevity, “Exposed to Scams: What Separates Victims from Non-Victims?” Relatively few consumers engaged with a scammer or lost money by phone or email, but 93% of fraud victims engaged—and 53%—lost money in social medial scams. 

What online scams are Millennials most vulnerable to?

Shopping-related reports, debt-related scams, and scams that promise money through jobs, investments, or business opportunities. Nine of 10 Millennials (93%) are more likely than consumers over 40 to report losing money to fake check scams. To develop this story, loop a consumer expert into your discussion who can offer strategies. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) offers guidelines on fake check scams. The FTC also has information on online shopping, bogus income offers, credit and debt scams on their site (ftc.gov).


  • Dorianne Perrucci

    Since 2001, Dorianne's freelance bylines have appeared in leading print and digital news outlets, including The New York Times, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, TheStreet.com, The Star-Ledger and NJ Biz. During the financial crisis of 2007-2009, Do...

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