SUBMITTED: Don’t fall for these Generation Z scams

LaDonna Koebel

Editor’s Note: This piece has been edited for grammar and clarity, but not content.

Young adults and college students are attractive targets for scammers. Members of Generation Z (Gen Z) have a clean credit record and extensive online presence, which increases their exposure risk.

Despite growing up in a digital age, younger adults are more susceptible to losing money to scams than the elderly. According to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) annual report listing the top scams of 2022, out of 2.4 million fraud reports, data showed that young adults (ages 20-29) reported losing money more often than older adults (ages 70-79). Young adults also suffered higher rates of identity theft than people over 50, which can take a huge financial and emotional toll on victims just beginning their careers.

In general, the financial losses to scams are significant. In 2022, Kentuckians reported losing nearly $32 million to scams and identity theft, more than double the financial losses reported in 2021. But high dollar losses to scams isn’t specific to Kentucky; it has become a national trend. According to the FTC’s 2022 data, 2.4 million Americans reported losing $8.8 billion to fraud last year, which is a $2.6 billion increase compared to 2021.

What scams should Gen Z be on the lookout for? According to the FTC, the top 5 scams reported by Americans aged 20-29 include fraud related to online shopping, impersonating a business or government agency, investments, and employment.

No one wants to lose money to an online shopping scam but losing money on an outfit pales in comparison to the risks associated with an employment scam and the identity theft that follows. Employment scammers headhunt victims through blast emails and legitimate employment sites to offer flexibility and high pay. Be cautious and research employers – a job search can be risky.

Scammers most often contact young adults through social media, which provides an ideal platform for running online shopping and business imposter scams. In these schemes, scammers create duplicate accounts or take over pages to lure unsuspecting victims into fake investment opportunities – usually involving the conversion of funds to bitcoin. By the time the target realizes the opportunity is a scam, not a trusted friend, it’s too late. Unprotected social media pages also provide scammers with access to information, like name, birth date, college, and employment status, they need to commit identity theft.

Not surprisingly, the favored method of payment for this age group is cash apps. Young Americans are accustomed to splitting the cost of dinner with friends or paying for an Uber with handy cash apps. Scammers intentionally ask victims to make payments through cash apps, gift cards, bitcoin, and wire transfers because it is nearly impossible to recover.

The Attorney General’s Office has taken steps to warn Kentuckians about these common scams and shared tips to avoid this type of fraud. In 2022, the office launched a statewide media campaign called “Be a Fraud Fighter.” The campaign included radio advertisements and printed brochures which were distributed through banks and community partners. The Office of Senior Protection also regularly speaks to community groups, businesses, and libraries to raise awareness about scams. We’ve also collaborated with the Kentucky Retail Federation to remind consumers that the safest way to avoid scams is to remember that gift cards should only be purchased as gifts and not used to make payments.

While there are many types of scams and fraud, you can protect yourself from common scams by following these tips:

  • Be wary of ordering from unknown websites, especially impulse buys from ads on social media. Always use a credit card when purchasing items online. Credit cards provide greater protection if you don’t receive the item.
  • Never click on links within text messages or emails, even those which appear to be from trusted sources such as your bank or a known business, as these can install malware on your device to steal passwords or your identity.
  • If anyone demands that you send money through a cash app, bitcoin, wire transfer, or gift card, especially if they claim to be law enforcement, a public utility, or another government agency, it’s a scam!
  • Carefully research potential employers before providing personal information, social security, or bank account information. Scammers promise work-from-home jobs, high wages, and flexible opportunities. They even pose as headhunters on reputable employment websites and social media to lure you into fake employment scams.

It will take all of us working together to stop scammers from preying on Kentuckians, and we need your help. We need Kentuckians who encounter a suspected scam to report it to our office by completing our online scam complaint form at Reporting a scam quickly can prevent further financial harm and helps our office protect others from trending scams.

LaDonna Koebel is the Executive Director of the Attorney General’s Office of Senior Protection, which assists consumers of all ages with fraud, scams, and identity theft through education, awareness, and steps to recover from scams.

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