More Tech-Savvy Teenagers Falling for Social Media Scams, Study Reveals

Photo: (Photo : ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images)

Despite their ability to grasp technology and the digital space better than most adults, more tech-savvy teenagers fall victim to social media scams.

A study from Social Catfish, which runs an online identity verification service, has revealed that cases of social media scams involving digital natives, or the below 20-year-old individuals who grew up using the internet, have increased to 156 percent in the last three years. Comparatively, online scams impacting people aged 60 years old and above, or the age group online scammers used to victimize easily, have risen to 112 percent.

Data from the Internet Crime Complaint Center of the FBI showed 23,200 complaints of social media scams from the younger generation in 2020. Three years ago, the complaints were just at 9,000.

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Social Catfish President David McClellan said that the results of their study highlights worrying concerns as scammers are now targeting the internet-savvy generation. McClellan said that it's a reflection of how trusting teenagers are online, in a space where they are comfortable making their lives public.

How Teens Are Being Scammed

According to Today, the most common social media scams aimed at teens and young 20-somethings start with an offer on their private messages. Someone tries to contact them to ask if they would like to become brand ambassadors or influencers.

As influencers, the teens are promised free, discounted products or even money in exchange for video promotions. However, before they could get these perks, the scammers would usually ask the teenagers to send minimal money.

This deal might sound too good to be true for many kids because the money they would have to shell out is only a small percentage of the promised items they would get to keep as ambassadors and influencers. But after paying anywhere from $55 to $70, the scammers would suddenly disappear from social media with no traces of other contact details. In some cases, the scammers might even ask for the teenager's credit card numbers and other details that might qualify as identity theft.

Social media scammers could also pose as celebrity frauds, sending private messages to individuals to appeal to donate money for their advocacies. However, social media users who receive messages from "celebrities" can easily verify if the profile is authentic and legitimate if there's a blue checkmark next to their names. Actual celebrities will also not be contacting individual people for donations since they will use their popularity to promote the causes they believe in.

Reporting Online Scams

The Federal Trade Commission said that a person could verify anything on the internet, so if someone contacts a teenager with offers, it's best to search for similar activities online. If the person asks to send money or gift cards, this is almost always a red flag.

If the money has been sent, it may be possible to stop the payment or reverse the transaction by calling the bank or credit card company. One could also report fraud activities at the FTC site or the FBI.

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