millennials most likely scam victimsWhen you hear the phrase “scam victim,” you likely picture an elderly person sending their money to a Nigerian prince or giving out their credit card details to someone over the phone, right? In general, the view of scams and those who get scammed is that they are less educated, overly trusting, lower income and elderly. According to research data published by the BBB Institute, however, this stereotype is inaccurate. Young adults are much more likely to lose money in a scam, the BBB has found, all while holding the view that they are unlikely targets. Keep reading to find out what makes millennials the most likely scam victims and how millennials — and the older people who care about them — can help them become less vulnerable to being hoodwinked.

Millennials suffer from optimism bias when it comes to scams

The BBB Institute calls it the “invulnerability illusion,” and what it basically means is that younger people suffer from an optimism bias that causes them to think they are less vulnerable than other people. Older people in general have constantly warned that they are potential targets for scammers, whereas millennials may think that their technological savvy and age keeps them from falling for scams. In fact, when the BBB Institute surveyed more than 2,000 adults to learn about their experiences with scams, 80% of those surveyed below the age of 35 said they believed people over the age of 65 were the most likely to be scammed. The data shows that this is far from the truth.

In the same survey conducted by the BBB Institute, 30% of people ages 25 to 34 admitted to losing money to a scam in the past year, compared with less than 10% of those 55 and older. What’s more, information collected by the BBB’s Scam Tracker site, which lets people report scams they’ve come across, 89% of those 65 or older reporting a scam recognized it before they lost any money, with just 11% reporting they lost money to the scam. On the flip side, 34% of those 18 to 24 were scammed out of their money — that’s three times the amount of millennials scammed compared to the elderly. These statistics prove millennials believe they are too smart to get scammed, and this invulnerability illusion is having an effect.

How can millennials protect themselves from scams?

The same basic rules apply to everyone when it comes to scams, but one of the potential reasons millennials are falling victim to scams more often than the elderly is that they’re more likely to make impulsive purchases as well as buy items online. It’s important to be safe when shopping online and steer clear of clicking suspicious links — especially when using social media sites. Using a reputable Internet security software can be helpful in blocking malicious links and alerting you to websites that might not be secure places to pay.

Many common myths are steeped in reality, and the train of thought that leads people to believe the elderly are more likely to become victims of scams is born out of some truth. It’s absolutely important for seniors — and those who care about them — to watch out for scammers and keep in mind the dangers online and offline. However, it’s equally important for adults of any age, especially millennials, to be mindful and pay attention to the latest scams that might be targeting them. Everything from rental ads on Craigslist to offers of scholarships pose a potential scam risk, so staying on your guard and maintaining an air of suspicion is key. Another thing to remember is that scammers do not only contact their victims through phone and email like they’ve done in the past, as they now also send scam text messages. The FTC has an extensive guide about how to combat such scams. It should be noted that this guide details text message spam, but the information provided also translates to scam texts.

To learn more about the latest scams and get tips for how to avoid them, follow our scams blog.