Common Scams by Age Group
Mar 11 2020
If you’re a teen or younger adult, watch out for scams involving seemingly easy ways to make money (such as by working from home or being paid to brand-wrap your car). If you’re in your 20s and 30s, pay attention to “fixes” for debt-related problems.
Common work-at-home scams, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), include:
- Starting an internet business
- Stuffing envelopes
- Doing assembly or craft work
- Processing rebates
- Medical billing
- Mystery shopping
- Working as a personal or virtual assistant
- Multilevel marketing plans that survive on recruiting over retail sales
Car wrap scammers might send an email offering to pay you $250-$350 a week to drive your vehicle wrapped to advertise a well-known product or event, the FTC reports. Once you agree, scammers send you a check to deposit in your bank account, so you can use some of the money to pay a specialist to put the ads on your car.
Scammers will have you pay for the specialist in ways that are hard to cancel or get reimbursement from, such as:
- Gift cards
- Money order
- Big-box store money services
The problem is, there is no specialist and the check is a fake. By law, banks have to make deposited funds available quickly, so the money seems to appear in your account – but if a check turns out to be fake, banks take back the amount from your account. If you don’t have the money, your account can be closed, and you would be responsible for paying the money back to the bank.
When it comes to debt-related scams, the FTC says there is no government program that will pay your monthly bills for an up-front payment or processing fee, no one can get your student loans forgiven if you pay them a fee, and no one can guarantee that your creditors will forgive your debts. Victims of these scams not only lost the “fees” they paid, they also ended up with their original bills plus late fees. Or in the case of student loan scams, some go months – even years – before finding out their student loans were not forgiven.
Millennials are 25% more likely to report losing money to fraud than adults aged 40 and over, the FTC states, but their average reported loss is much lower than other age groups. Younger adults are more likely to lose money over online shopping fraud – buying things that are not delivered or not as advertised.
Adults Age 40 to 60
People in this age group tend to be targeted for tech support and romance scams, says Heidi Schumacher, Bell’s assistant Bank Secrecy Act fraud officer. Victims reported losing $143 million to romance scams in 2018, the FTC reports, noting that’s a higher total than any other type of scam. And the average reported loss was $2,600!
Romance scammers often target victims through social media or create phony profiles on dating websites and apps. They typically profess love quickly and have an excuse for being unable to meet someone in person – such as working on an oil rig, in the military or as a doctor with an international organization. They commonly ask for money for things like plane tickets, travel fees or medical expenses – usually through wire transfer or with reloadable cards or gift cards – allowing them to get cash quickly while remaining anonymous, the FTC explains.
In a tech support scam, fraudsters call, claiming to be a computer technician from a well-known company or your internet service provider, saying there are viruses or other malware on your computer. The caller might say you have to give him remote access to your computer or buy new software to fix the problem. Never give control of your computer or your credit card information to someone who calls you unexpectedly.
Another scam Heidi is seeing more frequently is a lending scam where people think they’re applying for a loan through an online lender. The only question they’re asked is for their bank user name and password, so a check can be deposited.
“The scammer will tell them they’re going to direct deposit the money, but in reality they’re doing it through mobile deposit,” Heidi explains. “It’s an easy way for them to get a counterfeit check into the customer’s account. People who take advantage of other people – it’s their job. And they’re often good at what they do.”
Older adults are more likely to report losing money to tech support scams, impostor fraud, and prize, sweepstakes, and lottery scams, an October 2019 FTC report shows. While adults aged 60 and older are less likely to report losing money to fraud, the amount of money they’re losing is rising. Those aged 80 and older report losing the most – at an average of $1,700.
In impostor fraud, scammers pretend to be someone you might trust – often a relative or government official (such as the IRS), to trick you into sending them money or giving them your personal information. They often create an “emergency” situation – preying on your emotions, so you don’t think as clearly. An IRS scammer, for example, may threaten to withhold Social Security payments. And they might know enough personal information to make their claim seem plausible. The best thing to do is call the person you think you’re talking to on a number you know is theirs, and don’t send any money until you hear from them. Chances are, they weren’t the one calling.
Prize, sweepstakes, and lottery scams are among the most common consumer frauds, the FTC says. These scams often claim you have to pay a fee, taxes or customs duties to claim your prize – and they often want payment through money wiring or gift cards. Remember, you shouldn’t have to pay a fee to claim a prize you’ve “won,” if someone asks you to wire money or pay with a gift card, it’s likely a scam – and if you didn’t enter a sweepstakes or lottery, you can’t have won.
There are some simple steps you can take to help avoid scammers and protect yourself from scams:
Don’t answer phone numbers or emails you don’t recognize.
Don’t open links you’re not expecting – even if they’re from people you know.
If a situation seems strange or “too good to be true” talk to someone you trust, or contact the bank.
Learn more about common scams, scams by topic, and what to do about them at the FTC’s website.