Three Ways Online Scammers Use Age to Target Victims

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When people think about online scams, they often picture the victim as an elderly, unsuspecting person. However, the reality is that scammers target all ages. Wily scammers are constantly changing their methods, and they carefully craft their scams to aim for a specific type of victim. No matter your age or education, you are at risk. Understanding what types of scams are targeted at your age group can help you stay safe.

Common Scams Millennials Fall For

Millennials have a reputation for being tech-savvy, but did you know they're actually the most likely to fall for scams online? A report from the FTC found that millennials were 25% more likely to report losing money to fraud than adults over the age of 40. The sort of scam most often directed at millennials preys on their desire for work. The Better Business Bureau explains that millennials are most likely to fall for check cashing scams.

These scams often start by telling a millennial that they are hired as a secret shopper or money transfer reviewer. The person is then sent a check, told to cash it, and asked to wire back a portion of the check funds to the scammer. If a person does as directed, they send a lot of money to the scammer before finding out that the check did not clear.

Another common variant involves offering to pay for something with a check that is more than the cost of the goods. The scammer asks the millennial to wire them back their "change," and then they make off with the product and the extra funds after the check bounces.

The best scam prevention tip for this type of trick is simply being wary of checks. Millennials do not use them often, so many are unaware of how they work. Never assume that a check will clear until the funds are in your account. If someone asks you to deposit or cash a check and wire money back, it's most likely a scam.

Online Scams Directed at Boomers and Gen Xers

Among people aged 40 to 75, scams tend to prey on their desire for companionship. Catfishing is a unique type of scam that involves online dating and social media sites. Instead of outright stealing money, they trick their victims into sending them money freely. Catfishing is one of the most lucrative scams out there. People will do anything for those they love, and unscrupulous scammers take advantage of that. On average, each catfishing victim loses about $2,600.

The online scammer will set up a profile featuring an attractive person and try to befriend random people. Once you show interest, they make you feel like they're falling in love. Then, the scammer will use that connection to ask for money. They may have elaborate reasons, like needing to fix a broken car before coming to visit you, that they use as an excuse to request that you send them money. Once the catfisher feels like they have gotten all the money they will get from the victim, they disappear, leaving the person brokenhearted and significantly poorer.

To avoid catfishing, it's important to research people you meet online and avoid sending them money. Catfishers are incredibly sophisticated. They can often fake an entire life and lead on victims for months or even years. Some signs a person you're talking to is actually catfishing you include the following:

  • They refuse to meet in person or do a video call.
  • They seem overly accommodating, never disagreeing or arguing with you.
  • You find other profiles with their picture when you do a reverse image search on their photo.
  • They ask you for large sums of money for an emergency or transportation to meet you.
  • Their social media profiles are empty, not showing many interactions with friends or family.
  • After talking to you for a short time, they are already ready to say they are in love with you.
  • They have elaborate stories for why they cannot talk to you or see you in person.

Financial Scams Focused on Seniors

Scams that target seniors are moving away from stereotypical schemes like the "Nigerian prince" scam. Instead, they are focusing on an essential supply that almost all seniors need. The National Council on Aging reports that both wealthy and low-income seniors are being targeted in various health care scams.

One of the most common health care-related scams involves a scammer who poses as a Medicare representative. They call the senior and claim to be an official helping with Medicare enrollment. Then, the scammer collects personal information and uses it to steal funds.

Another frequent online scamming strategy is counterfeit medications. More seniors than ever are shopping online for medications. Scammers often charge inflated prices and then send seniors useless or even harmful counterfeits. Seniors may need to speak to their doctors to learn how to avoid scams that revolve around health care.

Protect Yourself at Every Age

Ultimately, the best way of avoiding a financial scam is to follow safe financial practices. You should always carefully research people and organizations before sending money and avoid sending funds through untraceable methods like wire transfers. Remember that if something seems too good to be true online, it usually is. It can be difficult to avoid attacks from scammers, but being especially cautious can help you avoid major financial disasters.