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An Echo Press Editorial: Tech-savvy teens are falling for online scams

By the Echo Press Editorial Board

EP Echo Press Editorial
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When people think of scams, they may think that older people are the most targeted victims.

But that’s not always the case.

A new study found that tech-savvy teens are falling for online scams at a higher rate than senior citizens.

The money lost by victims under 20 years old grew by 1,125% over the last five years compared to 390% for seniors, according to SocialCatfish.Com’s study on the state of internet scams in 2022, using data from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), and the Federal Trade Commission.

Teens lost just $8.2 million in 2017 compared to a whopping $101.4 million last year.

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Seniors remain by far the most victimized group overall – losing $1.68 billion last year – but SocialCatfish.Com points out that the surge of Gen Z victims is alarming and speaks to the growing sophistication of scammers.

Minnesota is the No. 20 most-scammed state in the nation with 5,844 victims losing $83,712,410 in 2021. Nationally, a record $6.9 billion was lost to online scams in 2021, up nearly double from $3.5 billion in 2019 prior to the pandemic.

Consumers can protect themselves and their cash by being aware of the tricks scammers are dreaming up. Here’s SocialCatfish’s list of four common scams that target teens and how to avoid them:

“Sextortion.” The FBI announced a dramatic increase in “Sextortion” plots against teenage boys. Scammers pose as attractive females on social media, send nude photos, and ask for the same in return. Once received, the victim is told if he does not send money, the photo will be sent to all his friends and family and posted online.

How to avoid: Perform a reverse image search to confirm if the person you are chatting with online is who they say they are.

Student loan forgiveness. Since the government announced that up to $20,000 in student loans can be forgiven, fake websites with imposter Department of Education logos are tricking people into providing their bank and personal information in hopes of having their debt forgiven.

How to avoid: Only use the Department of Education's official financial site StudentAid.gov.

Online gaming. Players use credit cards to make in-game purchases that will help them win. Scammers pose as fake vendors and send phishing links during the in-game chat to make these purchases. If clicked, the criminal will have access to all your information.

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How to avoid: Do not click on links in your direct messages (DMs). Even if the link is from a friend, call them to verbally verify.

Talent scout. Users on Instagram and TikTok receive DM’s offering modeling and acting opportunities. They ask for a fee to apply but of course there is no job waiting. They will request personal information during the “application process” and use it to commit identity theft.

How to avoid: Be wary of DMs offering fame and fortune. Do research on the company first.

If you are the victim of a scam or attempted scam, report it to the FTC, IC3, FBI and IdentityTheft.gov.

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