By Pam Reiss
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), the number of reported incidents of cyber fraud continues to increase, reaching to 351,937 in 2018, 16% more than 2017 and a 30% increase from 2014. Losses from these incidents are growing even faster, reaching more than $2.7 billion last year, an increase of 90% from 2017, and almost 240% more than 2014. The FTC, which collects data on all sources of fraud, are even more staggering, registering almost 3 million complaints last year alone.
What’s alarming is that no age group is immune. While there is a correlation between age and amount lost according to FTC data, there is also a reverse correlation between age and frequency of fraud loss. The median loss increases with age, and Americans 80 and over tend to experience significantly larger losses than any other age group. But, they are also the least likely to experience loss due to fraud.
In fact, younger Americans under 30 appear to be much more susceptible to loss through fraud than other age groups, falling victim to some sort of fraud three times more often than senior citizens. This is particularly alarming because it points to younger generations having habits that make them easier targets, which could place them at risk for larger losses as they get older and their savings grow.
A large part of it is the nature of digital natives – Millennials and post-Millennials. Growing up with the world at their fingertips, they have been immersed in a social environment and are willing to share just about anything. They have built an resistance to fear of sharing information, and the more “friends” and “followers” and “likes” they have, the more successful they feel, often with little regard for the source of acknowledgement.
That world of social media acceptance has created a false sense of trust, opening the door for criminals, who only need to collect a few pieces of information in order to accomplish their goals. It’s very easy to set up fake digital personalities to collect personal information or to create entertaining online quizzes to show your IQ, what Star Wars character you would be, or other similar social interactions.
This willingness to share, combined with younger people’s inherently higher level of trust (perhaps we should call it naïveté), makes them easier targets than older generations, which are less likely to trust engagements from people or entities they don’t know.
Whether the result is providing personal information that can lead to fraud, or clicking on malicious links in appear to be legitimate, younger adults can often be more easily manipulated by con artists and cyber criminals. The good news is there are a number of easy tips that can help keep everyone – young and old – safe.
- Check senders’ actual email addresses (not just names, they can be falsified)
- Don’t click on links unless you are sure they are legitimate
- Don’t open attachments unless you are sure they are intended for you – verify with senders if needed
- Don’t share personal information with anyone you don’t know, including birthdays and birth cities. Most entities that need this information already have it. This is a common phone scam tactic
- If you aren’t sure if a request is legitimate, don’t acknowledge it until you have verified it separately with the organization or friend asking for it
- Don’t accept friend or follower requests from people you don’t know or who seem out of place
- Always keep your cyber security software up to date on all devices
- Monitor your bank and credit card accounts, as well as credit reports
- Be aware of “free” offers – you can rarely get things for nothing
- Don’t send money to anyone who isn’t a close friend or family member
- Be on the lookout for “URGENT” requests for information or money – this is telltale sign of scams
- Don’t engage in any financial or other sensitive transactions over public or other unsecured WiFi networks – they can easily be hacked and your data intercepted.
Following these simple steps will help keep your identity and finances secure. It’s inevitable, however, that you will be engaged by a fraudster. When that happens, be sure to report it. The more information authorities have, the better then are able to connect scams with their perpetrators and hopefully catch them.
Hopefully, it won’t happen, but if you think your personal or financial information has been compromised, contact The Milford Bank immediately.