Millennials grew up online. Whether it’s making their first screen names with America Online in the 90s and digging through chat rooms, using HTML to personalize their Myspace pages in high school, and now managing their Instagram feeds, browsing the Internet is second nature to these digital natives.
But this always online generation can be uniquely positioned as the target of Internet scams.
Millennials are 25% more likely to report losing money to fraud than those over 40, according to an October 2019 report from the Federal Trade Commission. The report also found this age group:
Was twice as likely to report being the victim of purchase fraud.
Reported to have been beaten by companies and debt relief scams in droves.
Was 77% more likely than older consumers to report losing money to a scam that started with email
While millennials are more likely to report this type of fraud, the tools to prevent and recover from such scams apply to consumers of all ages.
Be skeptical about shopping on social media
It has become a meme in itself: “What it looks like online versus what you get when it happens.” This dress or pair of sneakers may look beautiful online, but when it arrives you find that the dress looks like a sheet and the sneakers are held together with hot glue.
Millennials are twice as likely to report losing money due to items that are different than they expected or never show up, compared to those over 40. This all too common occurrence may seem like the cost of doing business online, but it is actually a form of online shopping fraud.
Deceptive ads in social media feeds and for online-only stores may be to blame for more frequent reports of purchase fraud, says Charity Lacey, vice president of communications at Identity Theft Resource Center, a non-profit organization. nonprofit that helps consumers recover from identity theft.
Lacey cautions consumers to use caution before purchasing items from an unknown business they come across online, especially if it appears they are only selling a single or a handful of products, as this may be a warning sign of a fraudulent business. “I would compare that to the guy with the trench coat that sells gold watches and chains,” Lacey says.
What you can do: Check any business before you buy online. Proceed with caution if the business does not have an address listed online, does not have a clear return policy, and is only selling the one item that you have seen advertised.
Use a credit card when shopping online, advises FTC lawyer Lisa Schifferle. This way, if you come across fraud, you can take advantage of protections under the Fair Credit Billing Act, which can help you get your money back.
Report the fraud to your credit card company and file a complaint with the FTC as soon as you think there’s a problem, says Schifferle. Gather transaction information, including purchase amount, vendor name, and transaction date, before contacting your card issuer. This information should appear on your billing statement. You can also request a new credit card number to protect yourself.
Beware of scams at work
The saying “you have to spend money to make money” shouldn’t apply to a job posting, but that is exactly the trick of some job scammers.
The bogus company offers some business opportunity, like a work from home, but says you will have to pay a fee up front for training or other work related materials. Then the job never comes to fruition and your money is gone.
What you can do: Beware of any organization that asks you to pay for training or a job opportunity that sounds too good to be true. Report scams to the FTC.
Doubt Debt Relief Offers
Millennials are notoriously in debt, so it’s no surprise that this generation is also reporting more cases of victims of debt relief scams. In fact, Millennials were 86% more likely to report losing money to debt relief scams than those over 40.
Some scams work by charging you an upfront fee for their services – and never deliver on their promise. Be aware that it is illegal for a business to charge an upfront fee in this way.
Beware of companies that offer debt relief that sounds too good to be true. “Yes [the company] promises to get rid of all your debts, or if they tell you not to talk to your creditors, those are red flags, ”says Schifferle.
Speak with a nonprofit credit counseling agency to debt aid. These organizations offer free financial advice and can help you find legitimate ways to make your debt more manageable.
This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.