We live in an interconnected world, where technology dominates our daily lives. Younger people can be particularly vulnerable to scams and fraud. With access to various online platforms and a lack of experience in dealing with fraudulent activities, it becomes crucial for young individuals to be aware of the risks they face.
The statistics back this up:
“Studies show one in five of those aged 16-34 had been scammed in recent years, compared with just four per cent of those aged 55 and over.”
So, why is this?
It partly comes down to how younger people spend their free time. The younger generation may spend more time gaming – especially in relation to certain online games, which appeal more to younger people. A fun way to pass the time, like gaming, can leave some people more open to being scammed:
“Younger victims are being targeted through online gaming, where scammers encourage them to hand over card details to buy currency or characters for the game at a reduced price.”
The popularity of some games – which you may have heard of – can sadly be a breeding ground for certain individuals trying to take your money:
“Games that contain virtual money such as Fortnite have become an avenue of exploitation for criminals. There are many websites that are offering free virtual money for different games, provided you pass on your personal details. This could result in criminals having access to yours or your parent’s bank accounts.
As games are being turned into mobile versions, criminals have started to create fake downloadable versions of the game. This is another way to get you to give your personal data to criminals.”
We do not wish to stereotype that only younger people play the game Fortnite. But the statistics do support this:
“62.7% of the Fortnite players are from the age group of 18 to 24 years.”
As well as online gaming, we need to talk about social media.
Younger people tend to use and engage with social media, more than older people. Older people use social media too – but they are more likely to simply read what others have posted, without taking any further action. In contrast, younger people are much more likely to share, post and comment on social media. It is that extra level of interaction which makes younger people more susceptible to scams. Perhaps the post that the young person is responding to, came from a scammer:
“Two in five (39%) social media users aged 16-24 said they often shared, posted or commented on social media sites or apps, compared to 14% of users aged 65+. In contrast, 34% of social media users aged 65+ said they tended to only read things on these sites or apps, and rarely liked or posted anything themselves, compared to only 7% of users aged 16-24.”
Whilst young people may have the confidence to navigate an online world they’ve grown up with, the statistics suggest that younger people may not always have the ‘media savviness’ of older people, when it comes to using internet search engines:
“Search engine users aged 16-44 tended to be less media-literate than average in interpreting the accuracy of search results; 34% of 16-24-year-olds thought that if websites had been listed by the search engine, they would contain accurate and unbiased information. Indeed, savviness, or at least wariness, seemed to increase with age: search engine users aged 55+ were more likely than average to give the media-literate response that some results will be accurate, and some won’t be.” https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/234362/adults-media-use-and-attitudes-report-2022.pdf
The sad reality is that confidence is not always matched with ability when it comes to safely navigating the online world:
“Although social media users were highly confident that they could judge the validity of online content, most did not spot the valid indicators of a genuine social media post”
Let us now look at some examples of younger people being victims of scam and fraud. Although the victims’ identities have been protected, they are still real examples:
Miss D became a victim, through use of social media, as described by an Ombudsman:
“Miss D found a company selling wholesale clothing items (‘the seller’) on a popular social media platform. She contacted the seller and agreed to purchase 200 items of clothing for £1,000, to be delivered within 10 days of payment. From her conversations with the seller, she was expecting to receive vintage sweatshirts in an almost new condition.”
“She accepts that she should have made additional checks to verify the seller was genuine. But she was young and just starting out with her business venture at the time. She had not come across anything like this before or had a negative experience which would put her on guard. When she saw the seller’s photos and videos of the clothing she could expect to receive from them, she was happy that she’d found a wholesaler that she thought larger shops received their stock from”
“The scam has put a strain on her finances, and she would like to be fully reimbursed for her loss.”
“I appreciate that she was young and inexperienced when she made the payment”
Miss C became a victim when she contacted someone through social media:
“Miss C saw an advert for a way to make money quick. Miss C contacted someone on social media and was told she’d be sending money from her account to crypto-currency trading sites”
“Miss C was quite young at the time this happened and experiencing some financial difficulties. Miss C saw a way to make quick money in what appeared to be a legal way, and this could be a solution to the problems she was having at the time. I think Miss C was in quite a vulnerable place. And, because of that, she possibly didn’t ask as many questions as she wishes, in hindsight, she had.”
Victims of scams – young or old – should not be shamed. We should always blame the criminal – who has likely played on the victim’s emotions. The desire to be rich, or to be loved are motivations exploited by these criminals. Or, it may be a case of playing on emotions such as fear and curiosity.
Whatever you may think of the online world, it is clear it’s here to stay. And we all need to find ways to navigate the online world safely.
Some younger people may need to develop a healthy level of scepticism; looking at things online with a critical eye – and willing to ask a trusted person (in the ‘real’ world) their opinion on whether something found online seems legitimate.
It is worth being extra cautious if you are thinking of sending someone money. Sadly though, you may not even need to send the criminal money – if sharing your details means they can take money directly from you. To help prevent this, make your passwords strong and difficult to guess. Also use two-factor authentication when it is available.
At Allegiant, we are here to help you. We can try to claim back any money you have lost as a result of a scam. If this sounds like something we can help you with, please contact us for further details.