Security

Millennials are bigger victims of fraud than senior citizens, FTC finds

A report from the FTC reveals that millennials are more likely to lose money to fraud, a fact that should alarm cybersecurity professionals.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • A report from the FTC found that 40% of adults age 20-29 lost money to fraud, while only 18% of adults over the age of 70 did so, challenging the narrative of older adults falling victim to scams.
  • Report after report has found that younger adults are the biggest victims of scams. IT leaders need to make sure those users are properly trained on cybersecurity policy and treated like all other employees in regards to security.—TechRepublic

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued its annual report of consumer complaints, which shows that young adults are more likely to lose money to fraud than older adults.

40% of adults age 20-29, the report said, end up losing money in a fraud case, as opposed to only 18% of adults over the age of 70. While seniors lose more money on average when successfully scammed, it seems that they're simply not falling for tricks as often as people assume.

The FTC report is the latest study to challenge the conventional wisdom that older adults are the ones falling prey to fraud. As previously reported by TechRepublic, younger adults are more likely to lose money to a tech support scam, and self-reported tech-savvy people are more likely to become the victim of phishing and identity theft.

All these studies point to an incorrect perception about tech users that needs to change for the sake of personal and organizational security: Young adults aren't safer by default.

There is, of course, a caveat to the FTC's report: It's a collection of complaints the organization received, so it can't necessarily be treated as an absolute representation of who is paying out to scammers.

That said, the numbers do line up with a report from Microsoft mentioned by our sister site ZDNet in late 2016: Half of adults between the ages of 18 and 34 fell for online tech support scams, while only 17% of those over 55 did.

SEE: A winning strategy for cybersecurity (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

Teach your children well

One of the reasons Microsoft gives for its numbers is the shifting way in which tech support scams find victims: Banner ads are now a more popular choice than phone calls. Microsoft found that older adults are more likely to fall for a phone scam, but the money lies in fooling younger people using the internet.

While Microsoft may have only been interested in tech support scams in its study, what it represents is a larger shift in crime from the real world to the digital one.

SEE: IT leader's guide to reducing insider security threats (Tech Pro Research)

Fraud, scams, and confidence tricks have been given new life by the digital age—even decidedly non-technical con artists are turning to email phishing to earn money. As the generation that spends more of its time in front of screens, younger adults will naturally become the most dominant targets.

When a young professional assumes they're too smart to fall for online scams, that makes them all the more likely to do so—18% more likely in fact. That, along with the handful of other reports mentioned, should give IT leaders pause to think about how they're treating and training younger employees.

Don't assume that someone who knows their way around a computer has safe browsing habits, good password hygiene, properly handles the security of their mobile device, or isn't flouting company cybersecurity protocols.

Comfort, familiarity, and a bit of know-how breed complacency, which is the enemy of a good cybersecurity posture.

Also see

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Image: iStock/Aleutie

About Brandon Vigliarolo

Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.

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