Online scams: How and why millennials are victimized

Young adults are known for their online prowess and capability, but factors they cannot control in the cyber community are scams and their disastrous effects.

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, a total of over $8 hundred million was stolen from Americans in 2014, affecting close to 300,000 people.

In reality, this is a small portion of those who have become victims of online scams. A 2015 FBI Crime Complaint Center report estimates that only around 15 percent of Americans report their online losses to the relevant authorities, leaving many fraudulent scams uninvestigated.

Of the large number who suffer from these scams, college students and millennials do not escape the reach of these cyber-crimes. Various studies show that despite their attempts at remaining anonymous, young adults can be more vulnerable than any demographic. Also, knowledge gathered from cyber security facts really shows the true story of how many cybercrimes are actually being committed all the time.

However, they aren’t being targeted the same way as elderly or other vulnerable people. People with a lack of computer knowledge will be more likely to fall for email or fake ad scams but Millenials know how to avoid these. Therefore, scammers have had to come up with more elaborate scams. For example, as more Millennials get older and look to invest money, there are numerous fake trading sites and apps that will rob them of their money. The sites look legitimate which is why it’s so important for people to look into the best trading platform uk before investing so they know their money is going to be safe.

Furthermore, the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project partnered with Princeton Survey Research Associates International and found that 11 percent of Americans have had credit card or bank account information stolen when browsing the internet, while six percent have been a victim of an online scam. The survey used 1,002 participants from the age of 18 to over 65 and was conducted via telephone call. The survey found that adults ages 18-29 were more likely to use various strategies to make their online presence less visible.

However, the report also shows that young adults are most likely to use their real names or a recognizable username when posting online. In addition to this, young adults are also most likely to have key personal information online, such as photos, email addresses and even home addresses. This, naturally, leaves the members of that demographic at a greater risk of a cyber-attack.

To support this, the Pew study found that young adults have had the most issues with attacks on their personal identity or information in four out of 5 categories included in that portion of the survey. The categories included: being stalked or harassed online, having an email account compromised or taken over and having online events lead to physical danger. Another contributor to young adults and millennials being victimized is that households that make under $30,000 per year are more likely to be victims of various cyber-attacks, according to the report.

Online purchases are a noticeable yet often overlooked threat to college students and the security of their financial and personal information.

According to the 2016 Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker, online shopping scams are the number-one scam affecting young adults with 2,341 reported scams in both Canada and the United States. Over 30,000 Americans have reported online scams to the BBB Scam Tracker, and, of those reports, 89 percent of people who are 65-years-old and up recognized the online scam before money was lost, while 34 percent of the 18 to 24-year-old demographic lost money due to the online scams they encountered.

According to another study from the BBB, young adults are more likely to be victimized by fraudulent attempts such as shopping scams based on their perceived immunity to financial loss.

The BBB sponsored a survey and research study meant to find the common perception of vulnerability to online scams and the general bias people carry towards those who are vulnerable.

Emma Fletcher, the study’s co-author and product manager with the BBB Institute, stated in the BBB study news release, “We’ve bought into stereotypes about scam victims — they’re usually seen as vulnerable and elderly, or gullible and poorly educated. These stereotypes are strongly held, and they are wrong. We are all at risk, but younger and more educated individuals are actually the most likely to be scammed.”

Rubens Pessanha, the other author of the study and the Council for Better Business Bureau’s director of marketing research and insights mentioned how this bias plays into the likelihood of young people being victimized online.

“Seniors may very well be more scam savvy than others. They are also less impulsive buyers than younger consumers, and less likely to be making purchases online where so many scams take place,” he said in the release.

The study is titled “Cracking the Invulnerability Illusion: Stereotypes, Optimism Bias, and the Way Forward for Marketplace Scam Education” and was conducted in 2016 using the answers 2,021 individuals in the U.S. and Canada.

Survey participants were asked to provide demographics that they believe to be the most vulnerable to scams. The typical victim from the vast majority of answers was an uneducated female over the age of 65. However, previous BBB studies found that the actual demographic most often admitting to a loss of money through scams were the younger, more educated group.

The “Cracking the Invulnerability Illusion” research study stated, “It stands to reason that individuals who believe they are not at risk will be less receptive to efforts to provide protective information.”

This story originally ran in MTSU Sidelines’ February 2017 print edition. Read the full edition here.

For more information, contact Editor-in-Chief Sarah Grace Taylor at

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