Nova Scotia

'Invulnerability illusion' leaves younger people exposed to web frauds

A recent Better Business Bureau study found 69 per cent of scam victims are under 45 — and millennials are more likely to get scammed than baby boomers.

The 'optimism bias' is tricking more millennials into online swindles, says Better Business Bureau study

Younger people tend to shop online more than older people, which increases the chances they'll get tricked. (iStock)

If you're a younger person who thinks older people are more likely to get scammed online than you are, your dodgy prince awaits.

A recent Better Business Bureau study found 69 per cent of online scam victims are under 45 — and millennials are more likely to get conned than baby boomers.

"Despite the perception that it is typically the elderly scam victim, it's actually more likely for those in the 25 to 55 range that are likely to be victims of scams," said Peter Moorhouse, president and CEO of BBB Atlantic Canada. "In particular, there's a spike in the 25 to 35 range."

Tech scams snare tech generation

And younger victims more often paid the price, according to BBB:

  • 34 per cent of people aged 18 to 24 who got enmeshed in a scam lost money.
  • 11 per cent of people aged 65 and up who got enmeshed in a scam lost money.

"We think that one of the reasons why it's increasingly younger people that are turning up as victims is because increasingly these scams are technology-based," Moorhouse told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Wednesday

Younger people tend to spend more time online, meaning they see more carefully disguised scam emails and bad pop-up ads. Blinded by the "invulnerability illusion," the sub-45 set accidentally download malware that leads thieves to their money and identity.

"If you feel you are less at risk, then you're in a sense making yourself more at risk because you're not going to take precautions," said Moorhouse.

Parking tickets to romance

On Thursday, Halifax Regional Police warned citizens about three new scams reported to them. Two people were emailed by someone pretending to be from the police department and writing about a traffic ticket. The email tells people to click to view the ticket — but opening the link can compromise your computer. 

Another scam saw a bogus representative of Publishers Clearing House calling to say you've won money, and then asking for banking information to make the deposit. Then they use the information to take your money. 

Yet another online fleecing came via a romance con, where the thief posed as a paramour to win their victim's trust before asking for emergency financial help. 

Avoiding the optimism bias

The survey done by the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust talked to 2,000 people across Canada and the U.S., getting a cross-section of people.

"We've bought into stereotypes about scam victims — they're usually seen as vulnerable and elderly, or gullible and poorly educated," said the paper's co-author, Emma Fletcher. "These stereotypes are strongly held and they are wrong. We are all at risk, but younger and more educated individuals are actually the most likely to be scammed."

The study found older people don't suffer from "optimism bias," which means they know they're vulnerable to online scams. Younger, more educated people imagine they are invulnerable, and so become vulnerable. 

BBB said people should lock down their social media profiles to prevent private information leaking online, and keep mobile devices secured. It also urges people to report scams to its Scam Tracker website and to check its top 10 scams list annually. 

Police want victims to contact them, too. You can also report scams — even if you aren't the victim — to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre

With files from Information Morning