When most of us think of scams, we recall a story about a grandparent or senior seemingly falling for a phishing scam or clicking suspect links that unleash malware or a virus. It’s a classic tale.
Yet when it comes to scam victims, it’s not always what you think. Younger and more savvy people are falling for the same tricks. A recent study reveals that millennials are more likely to report losing money to fraud. But regardless of your age, you should feel confident that this roundup of trending millennial money cyber scams and tricks will help you stay one step ahead of it, as fraud affects every generation.
Hardest Hit, Most Vulnerable
The Federal Trade Commission reports that people in their 20s and 30s (an age group that roughly encompasses the millennial generation) are 25% more likely to report money lost to fraud than people 40 and over. Plus, they’re much more likely to report a loss on certain types of fraud.
And, as another recent study has shown, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the finances of many, but millennials have experienced the most fallout of all generations. These younger folks who are already experiencing financial hardships are more likely to be the target of digital fraud and coronavirus scams. As they reach out for help, fraudsters are preying on that vulnerability.
The monetary squeeze has left many susceptible to the following top scams:
Online Shopping Frauds
Millennials are twice as likely as people age 40 and older to report losing money while shopping online. Facebook and Instagram are common platforms where scams happen to those under 25 years old, typically involving fake online stores, the sale of phony tickets to events, and undelivered or “not as advertised” items.
Cybersecurity tip to remember: Sweating the details when online shopping can help keep you out of these traps. Confirm the online seller’s physical address and phone number. Read product descriptions thoroughly (especially the fine print), and watch for words like “refurbished,” “vintage,” or “close-out” as these could indicate items that are in less-than-ideal condition. And remember: Unbelievable prices for name-brand items are likely counterfeit.
Do not send cash or money transfers under any circumstances. Instead, pay by credit card, because the Fair Credit Billing Act will protect your transaction. You can dispute charges under certain conditions and temporarily withhold payment while the creditor investigates the scam. Keep records and don’t share your personal financial information in an email, online pop-ups, text messages, or over the phone.
Business and Employer Imposters
As many younger people search for new jobs, off-hours business prospects, and encore careers, many would-be fraudsters promise high returns, low-risk, and “golden” opportunities.
Some typical and current job and money-making frauds include:
- Disreputable companies selling worthless degrees and bogus scholarships
- Work-from-home scams surrounding medical billing businesses, envelope stuffing schemes, and assembly projects
- Phony job placement firms that don’t actually provide services, promote non-existent available positions, or charge large unfounded amounts upfront in advance of services
- Promises of “free money,” fishy financial models, and significant returns from small investments
Cybersecurity tip to remember: Do your homework before putting your money into any job opportunity. By law, businesses and potential employees must provide you with certain information before you hand over any money. It’s times like these that you should start asking questions because more often than not, if it seems too-good-to-be-true, it is.
Debt and Credit Scams
The internet is awash with ads for companies promising you a “new credit identity” or a fresh start for your credit history. Many millennials (and others) may see this as the perfect opportunity to get your credit back on track, but beware — it’s a scam. These fraudulent organizations are often selling “new” or different Social Security numbers illegally, leaving you on the hook for fines or legal action, if you use these or other numbers other than your own to apply for credit.
You might’ve also heard of younger folks receiving calls from fake debt collectors, often for loans they never received or for sums that do not match the loan amount. In other instances, people are receiving calls from impersonators of creditors they actually owe. Though these cybercriminals were never authorized to collect for the creditor, they may have some of your personal financial information, like your bank account number.
Some telltale signs that a debt collector is a fake include:
- They are seeking payment for a debt on a loan you do not recognize.
- They refuse to give their personal contact information like a mailing address or phone number.
- They ask for personal financial or sensitive information without cause.
- They attempt to scare you into paying by threatening arrest or reporting you to law enforcement.
Cybersecurity tip to remember: Ask for receipts and proof. Go through your paperwork and see if the amounts they’re claiming you owe actually match up with what you’ve got in your records.
Mortgage interest rates have reached near historic lows and folks of all generations are recognizing it is a great time to refinance or buy a home. Some millennials are looking into buying their first homes, and fraudsters are looking to capitalize by creating scams that leverage wire or money transfers.
Some scammers replicate legitimate rental and real estate listings with altered ads (like changing the contact information) on authentic sites. Others fabricate listings for places that aren’t for rent, sale, or don’t exist, and attract attention by offering below-market value. If you respond to these ads, the fraudsters ask you to wire an application fee, brokerage fees, or impersonate mortgage lenders.
Cybersecurity tip to remember: Wire transfers should always be regarded as dubious and insist on meeting and seeing the listing in-person before sending any money or signing on the dotted line. If you are going to wire money, confirm the identity of the recipient. Do a quick search online of the listing company to see if the contact info matches up and call to double-check before any money is on the line.
As with wire fraud and any of these scams, if you dig a little deeper, do your homework, and ask for proof of legitimacy, you’re far more likely spot a would-be fraudster. Play an active role in your safety and stay vigilant. Just remember: Fraud doesn’t discriminate by age. So, keep these tips top-of-mind to help keep your money out of the hands of crafty cyber scammers.