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Teen boys on their phones. Photo: Pexels.

Teens fall for online scams more than their grandparents

The joke may be on teens who think they know more about tech than their folks. A new study finds supposedly tech-savvy teens are falling for online scams at a higher rate than their parents and grandparents.

In the last five years, money lost by victims under the age of 20 grew by nearly 2,500% from 2017 to 2022 compared to 805% for seniors.

The amount lost by those under is now approaching a quarter billion dollars. They lost $210 million in 2022 alone, up from $8.2 million in 2017.  In 2023, it is expected to surpass $250 million. Seniors, because they have more financial resources and are a greater portion of the population, remain lost $3.1 billion in 2022.

Experts say that the surge of young victims speaks to the growing sophistication of scammers.

Social Catfish – a reverse search technology company – released a study on the State of Internet Scams 2023 using 2023 data from the FBI IC3 and FTC.

Overall, a record $10.3 billion was lost to online scams in 2022, up from $6.9 billion.

Missouri is the No. 20 most-scammed state with 7,560 victims losing $118 million.

Kansas came in at No. 30 with 2,399 victims losing a total of $58 million.

Young people should remain vigilant when they socialize, work, date and play games online.

Here are 5 Common Scams Targeting Teens in 2023:

1)      Social Media Influencer Scam: Teens idolize their favorite influencers. Scammers will create fake accounts that look just like the actual influencers account. They host a fake brand-sponsored contest and ask the “winner” to pay a fee or provide their bank account to win the prize.

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AI is being used to scam people by creating deepfakes.

How to Avoid: Only follow the official influencer account, fake accounts have fewer followers. Never send money or bank information to anyone you do not know.

2)      Romance Scams: Scammers create fake profiles resembling popular influencers or celebrities, tricking teens into sharing personal information or sending money for fake giveaways or endorsement opportunities.

How to Avoid: Perform a reverse search to confirm their identity. If they will not video chat or meet, they are a scammer.

3)      Sextortion Scams: Teens use smartphones for sexting which has now led to sextortion. Teens exploring online relationships may encounter scammers feigning affection to extract money or gifts. Scammers send an explicit image and ask for one in return. Once received, the scammers threaten to make the photo public if a ransom is not paid.  Many teen sextortion victims take their own lives.

How to Avoid: Never send explicit images online or by phone. If the person you are falling for will not meet or video chat think twice before sending anything.

4)      Online Gaming In-App Purchases: When online gaming, players can make in-app purchases to enhance the gaming experience. Scammers are tricking children into giving credit card information and downloading malware for nonexistent rewards.

How to Avoid: Only make purchases directly from the game’s manufacturer.  

5)     Online Shopping Fraud: Teens eager for trendy clothes or gadgets might fall victim to counterfeit websites offering unrealistic discounts. Unsuspecting buyers end up paying for subpar products or, worse, having their financial details stolen.

How to Avoid: Make sure the website is not full of typos. If the “customer service” email is “gmail.com” or “yahoo.com” that is a red flag. Research the company.

To protect teens from falling prey to such scams, education is paramount. Parents, guardians, and schools should engage in open conversations about online safety, teaching teens to scrutinize requests for personal information or payments. Encouraging skepticism, critical thinking, and the use of strong, unique passwords can significantly mitigate the risks associated with online scams.

If you are the victim of a scam or attempted scam report it to the FTC, IC3FBI and IdentityTheft.gov.

–Metro Voice

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