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Why Younger Generations Often Fall Prey To Online Scams

vitaliy_sokol on Deposit Photos

When you think of tax scams, many of us immediately conjure up images in our heads of our gullible grandmothers, right? Poor grandma, she just sits in front of her television all day and buys cheap jewelry from public access shows for 20 times what they are really worth. Probably because the hosts are so dreamy, and because he literally just said “there is only one left in the world, so buy now!” But, hey, guess what? You need to cut her some slack because it’s easier than you think to fall prey to scammers.

Rumor has it that millennials are far more likely to be scammed than the elderly when it comes to the tax season. So, either old age and dementia is setting in way faster than normally with the millennial generation, or our nation’s youth needs some serious educating about how to avoid being scammed especially during tax season. Hopefully, the latter. But who know, maybe it’s both…

Younger Generations are getting scammed Hard

In 2017 more millennials than older individuals reported being victims of fraud. An incredible 40 percent of consumers, ages 20 to 29, made fraud complaints to the Federal Trade Commission complaining that they had lost money. Only 18 percent within the 70 and older population reported similarly, according to an annual report from the federal agency.

Now, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) reported that adults ages 18–24 were scammed just as much as adults 65 and older. In 2020, 38.3% of all scam reports came from online purchases. The people who were most at-risk for those scams were adults between the ages of 18-54. We can — and should — do better.

Seniors get duped for greater amounts

Younger people get duped far more frequently, but older generations get duped far more devastatingly. That is, they give up the big bucks whereas millennials give up small amounts, but way more often. The median loss for people between the ages of 70 and 79 was $621 last year versus just $400 for those ages 20 to 29, according to the FTC.

“It’s possible that some older consumers have a little bit more money to lose,” Vaca said. “It might also be that con artists, when they get someone on the phone, might assume they have more money to lose.” Many researchers believe that the damage might actually be far worse on older bank accounts than the statistics bear out, due to things like failure to report (or failure to know you were robbed!) Some even estimate that close to $3 billion is stolen annually from seniors by fraudsters, according to Consumer Reports.


Although some generations were scammed less frequently than others (The Silent Generation wasn’t scammed as often as millennials, who in turn were not scammed as often as the Baby Boomers), and some generations were taken for more than others (the Silent Generation got hit way harder than millennials). There is clearly an issue for all of us here that needs to be addressed — understanding how to spot a scam(mer) when you see one.

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