CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Young people may be more computer savvy, but they’re also falling prey to internet and other scams at a higher rate.
Recent reports from organizations that track consumer issues have found that young adults have lost millions in dollars to scammers.
According to the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) most recent Scam Tracker Risk Report, adults ages 18-24 reported an average of losing $150 in a transaction and many of the scams took place online. Those numbers are similar to losses seen by people over age 65.
A report from Social Catfish found the number of victims aged 20 years old and younger have shown the fastest growth rate in scam losses since 2017, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). In 2017, there were 9,053 victims compared to 23,186 in 2020, an increase of 156% in the number of victims.
College students, many away from home for the first time and making their own financial decisions, are targeted for their lack of experience dealing with money. One popular phishing scam with thieves is using email or text messages from a department at the college asking for personal information or to open attached links. Call the college office directly or go in person to verify any information.
The BBB highlights several scams targeting college students:
- Fake credit cards – Offers to apply for the first credit card are tempting to many students. Not only could this create credit problems down the road due to unchecked spending, some of the deals could be phony offers designed to get access to personal information. Research the offers from the credit card flyers as well as the banking institutions before applying. Review the BBB Tip on Credit Card Scams.
- Too Good to be true apartments – It’s hard to not jump on a convenient apartment so close to campus, especially if it advertises affordable rent. It’s tempting to hand over credit card information online to lock in a great spot, but it’s always worth seeing the apartment in person prior to a money transfer. This also applies to Craigslist ads of other students looking for roommates.
- Safe credit reports – It’s a good idea to start practicing some healthy money habits as early as the age of 18. One such habit is regularly checking your credit report for unusual activity and possible ID fraud. The official government website to do this for free is annualcreditreport.com.
- Scholarship and grant scams – Be wary of phone calls from companies guaranteeing they can help reduce loan payments or offer a hefty grant. Searching the company’s name online could bring up scam alerts or negative reviews from other consumers. Read reviews and complaints about the company at BBB.org and contact the school’s financial aid office for advice and help regarding financing your education. Scholarship scams can affect college students even after graduation; read our tips on scholarship scams.
- Online shopping scams – Online purchase scams were the #1 culprit for scams in 2020 attacking 18-25 year olds especially through social media platforms and apps. BBB has tips for smart shopping online.
- Awareness of current scams – As tech savvy as current college students can be, a surprising number of scams reported to BBB’s ScamTracker are from students who learned their lesson too late. Use BBB’s ScamTracker to learn of the latest scam trends and read local reports of specific incidents.
The BBB also has a checklist for students on how to avoid ID theft on campus.
Social Catfish has issued information on the top 5 scams that target teens and young adults and offers ways to prevent becoming a victim:
- Job Scams: The pandemic made it difficult for young people to find work. Scammers capitalized on this by dangling fake jobs that can be done remotely with high pay. They post on job sites and then request advanced payment for training. They ask for personal information during the “application process” and use it to drain your bank and commit identity theft. How to Avoid: Be wary of any job that seems too good to be true or asks you for payment prior to beginning. Never provide information or bank accounts until you’ve investigated the company thoroughly.
- Instagram Influencer Scam: Teens and young adults worship 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. How to Avoid: Never send money or bank information to anyone you do not know.
- Romance Scams: Also known as Catfishing, this is when scammers steal photos of good-looking people and target young, vulnerable people online. They make the victim fall in love and begin asking for money. How to Avoid: Never give money to anyone you meet online. If they will not video chat or meet, they are a scammer.
- Sextortion Scams: The advent of smart phones led to sexting which has now led to sextortion. Scammers pose as an attractive person on OnlyFans or Snapchat, hooks the target and moves the conversation over to text. They send an explicit image and ask for one in return. Once received, they reveal themselves to be scammers and threaten to send the photo to all contacts in the person’s phone and post the picture on the Internet. How to Avoid: Avoid sending explicit images online or by phone. If the person you are falling for will not meet or video chat think twice before sending anything.
- Online Shopping: Fake websites are created that look like an online store selling items at a huge discount. If you buy, the item never arrives, they pocket the money and steal your credit card and personal information for future online theft. 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.