GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — In a significant shift, young people have jumped to the top of the list of online scam victims, according to the Better Business Bureau.
“For the last several years, young people have been the most likely age group to lose money to a scam,” said Troy Baker, educational foundation director with the BBB Serving Western Michigan.
The pandemic played a role in the findings of the 2020 Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker Risk Report. Online purchasing has been the way to buy things while in quarantine, and that has catapulted young people to the top of the list of people most likely to be scammed.
“Most people think older people, senior citizens, when it comes to scams but really the data has shown that young people are the most likely age group to lose money to a scam,” Baker said. “What’s different this year is the amount of money lost. Typically, seniors lose the most about of money when it comes to scams but with the prevalence of online purchasing scams this year, young people have caught up.”
The BBB’s annual Scam Tracker Risk Report rates the riskiest scams or the scams that cost victims the most money. In 2020, adults ages 18 to 24 reported the highest median losses ($150) over the past year, pulling even with the 65-plus crowd, an age group that traditionally sees the highest median loss. The younger group also saw the the highest likelihood of loss (56.6%).
Baker said a lot of young people were sucked in by ads they see while scrolling Instagram or Facebook.
“Just because a website looks good, just because it’s a product you think would be good, doesn’t mean it’s the right place to buy it,” Baker said. “Do some homework. Buy it from a place you already know and trust. That product you’re looking for is probably available somewhere else. Just do a little looking before you spend your money.”
Online purchase scams were the most common scam reported to the BBB Scam Tracker in 2020 as well as the most likely type of scam to cause monetary loss — a combination that caused online purchase scams to become the riskiest scam in 2020. Employment scams were the second highest-risk scam of 2020, followed by fake check/money order scams.
Online pet purchases continued to be a popular way to scam people, and the pandemic has played right into scammers’ hands.
“We’ve seen especially with COVID 19 for a variety of reasons, pet scams have really increased this last year. More people are at home, so they want a pet with them. You’re online shopping instead of doing it in person,” Baker said. “There’s a reason you’re not going to somebody face-to-face to buy them now. So there are lots of reasons why pet scams are working more now than maybe they have in the past, but it really has become one of the riskiest scams we see in online purchasing scams in large part because of the dollar amounts that are there and the likelihood that they work.”
Baker said it’s safest to adopt from a local shelter or buy from a local breeder so you can see the pet you’re buying, not just a picture of it online.
The BBB also reported that PPE-related online purchases continued to be popular with scammers.