While people commonly stereotype scam victims as being senior citizens, a study conducted by the Better Business Bureau indicates that, in fact, Millennials and Generation Xers are actually much more likely to be victims of scams than are Baby Boomers, with Millennials and younger members of Generation X faring the worst of any age groups when it comes to falling prey to scams.

The study - which found that more than two thirds of scam victims are under the age of 45 - confirmed some trends noted in BBB Scam Tracker, a reporting tool through which more than 30,000 consumers have reported scams to the BBB since late 2015. "Of those consumers reporting scams to BBB Scam Tracker, 89% of seniors (age 65 and up) recognized the scam in time, while only 11% reported actually losing money. For those age 18-24, however, more than three times as many failed to recognize the scam - 34% reported losing money."

Ironically, one of the reasons that Millennials and younger Generation Xers are more vulnerable to falling prey to scams than their older counterparts is that they don't view themselves as vulnerable.  According to the study, people tend to think that scam victims are "less educated, less intelligent, elderly, lower income, and less financially secure" than themselves - a false belief that creates a sense of security even when taking inappropriate risks.

As Rubens Pessanha, co author of the BBB study noted, "Optimism bias - the idea that we all think other people are more vulnerable than we are - is associated with risk-taking and failure to heed precautionary advice." Perhaps because they have been cautioned so many times about scams and closer match the stereotypical profile of scam victims, members of older generations, Pessanha noted, do not suffer from that optimism bias.

Older folks are also inherently less impulsive than younger people - and scammers often exploit people's impulsive actions in order to perpetrate crimes.

Additionally, many scams occur online, and, as one would expect, people under the age of 45 make more purchases online than do Baby Boomers, exposing them to more scammers than their older counterparts.

The counterproductive stereotypes of Seniors being the primary victims of scammers are reinforced consciously and unconsciously by various forms of media; take a look at the results (screenshot below) that I obtained by searching on Google for images of "scam victim" - the demographics on the first page which seem to progressively correlate a generation's age with the number of victims displayed - are nearly the opposite of reality.

The lesson for everybody: Understand that you can become a scam victim as much as anyone else can, so stop and think when being solicited to spend money - and exercise caution accordingly.

 

Published on: Jul 30, 2016