What Scam Should You Worry Most About? It Depends on Your Age…

In a new survey by Better Business Bureau (BBB), 80% of respondents said that knowing about a scam beforehand is the best way to avoid becoming a victim. In that case, what scams should people be most wary of?

As one ages, they face new and ever-changing challenges. Young adults have to navigate the job market for the first time, and as they become more established they have to figure out how to pay taxes. Older adults have to learn how to adapt to new technology. Unsurprisingly, these unique life events are reflected in the type of scams different age groups report.

Nationwide, adults between the ages of 18-34 have reported more than 5,000 scams to BBB Scam Tracker as of September 2016. The top reported scam by this age group? Employment scams. These account for 13% of reports, and more than 21% of reporters lost money to the scam. People in this age group are attempting to solidify their careers and build a financial foundation – and this can often lead them in to the hands of scammers.

It’s easy to get excited about an unsolicited email or job offer touting “no experience necessary”, “work from home”, and a great salary. However, these jobs are almost always too good to be true. Many of these scams involve being sent a fake check, then transferring money to other accounts. Other types of employment scams seek to steal the victim’s identity – “recruiters” may ask for unnecessary tax forms in an attempt to steal your Social Security number.

Consider it a red flag if you have to pay for any supplies or upfront costs, will be receiving checks or packages or wiring any money, the job asks for personal banking information or tax forms too early in the process, it’s an on-the-spot job offer, you’re interviewed in a hotel lobby, or it offers “immediate start”. If a job seems suspicious at all, be smart and search for it online. Look up all potential employers on bbb.org to determine their trustworthiness.

Once in to their thirties, people report less of these employment scams. The most reported scam to BBB Scam Tracker by those between the ages of 35-64 is overwhelmingly the tax collection scam. This scam accounts for a quarter of all reports by people in this age group.

Taxes can be complicated, especially when there are complex investments, various sources of income, and children involved. People may be worried that they didn’t file their taxes correctly and therefore more likely to believe the claims of a scammer calling to collect thousands of dollars in back taxes for the IRS. Thankfully, these calls are always scams. Just hang up, and report the scam to BBB Scam Tracker and the FTC.

Adults over 65 also report the tax scam to BBB Scam Tracker more than any other scam, but only reporters only lose money to this scam .4% of the time. Seniors are often thought of as the perfect scam target – out of touch, unfamiliar with technology and gullible. However, this stereotype simply isn’t true. New research by BBB shows that younger and more educated people are actually the most vulnerable to scams – 69% of victims are under 45 and 78% hold a college degree!

One scam that affects too many seniors is the tech support scam. The most common way that this scam plays out is as follows: a “tech support specialist” calls, usually claiming to be from Microsoft. The caller informs the consumer a virus has been detected on their computer and offers to remove it. In an effort to solve the problem, consumers provide not only credit card numbers, but also Social Security numbers and passwords. Never give away personal or financial information over the phone or give someone remote access to your computer.

As you continue throughout life, you’ll be targeted by a wide variety of scams. They will change depending on your age and where you are in life, so it’s vital to continuously educate yourself to stay up-to-date and protect yourself from scammers. Read about scam alerts and other consumer tips at bbb.org.


Pearl is the Communications Specialist for Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern Coastal California (BBB Oakland). She works to advance BBB’s vision of an ethical marketplace where buyers and sellers trust each other by being proactive in the community and developing relationships with business and consumer groups. Pearl represents BBB at events throughout the Bay Area to educate a wide variety of people. Pearl also manages BBB Oakland’s social media channels.

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Posted in Computers - Internet - Privacy, Consumer Tips, Scams

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