2/9/2022 | By John Levan

Scammers don’t care about the age of the people they scam. Sure, some older adults are more susceptible to certain scams, but technology has made younger people easy marks, too. Technology scams – through social media, investment-related cryptocurrency, and other modern avenues – take money from people of all ages, from seniors to young adults.

Now, technology has given scammers other ways to “fish” for that information and your money, including incoming phone calls and text messages.

Common technology scams

Social media scams

An FTC report found that more than 95,000 people lost a total of $770 million from social media fraud last year. Although that represents only 25% of all reported fraud losses in 2021, it’s a shocking 18-fold increase over social media scam losses in 2017.

Social media scams include:

Ads and offers on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter could be as seemingly innocent as a clickbait post promising funny photos or an intriguing poll. But when you click on the post, a link in a new window could install a virus on your computer.

Quizzes and polls on social media may not be as fun or innocent as they seem. Instead of being harmless distractions, they could be a clever way for crooks to get at your sensitive information. Here’s how they do it:

A fun quiz shows up on your Facebook (or other social media) feed. They might have you take a personality test to match it with a character on a popular TV show, or they could have you answer some questions to show how well you know a friend. Innocent enough, right?

Not necessarily! Their intent may be to collect enough information to get into your banking, investment, or credit card account. Answers to questions like: Who is your favorite sports team? What is your mother’s maiden name? What is the name of your childhood pet? are common security questions these financial companies use. Knowing the answers could give scammers access to the accounts, putting your money at risk.

More obvious questions could include your telephone number, Social Security number, or even bank account number (allegedly so they can send you your winnings, but really so they can “score” at your expense).

Impersonation frauds, also using social media, hack into a person’s social media accounts and then target their friends with fake stories and pleas for help – i.e., money.

Romance scams (the second most common scam) connect with a user through social media (and online dating sites). These new contacts pretend to be potential romantic interests. They connect long enough to build a relationship, then use one of many ways to get money.

Other social media scams promise sweepstake winnings, inheritance money, work-at-home money-making schemes, low-interest loans, government grants – but only if you send them a small processing fee or provide your financial information first. Don’t do it! Remember, if something seems too good to be true … it probably is.

Online shopping scams

Some online shopping scams grab your attention through an ad on social media. Others can appear in online search results, directing you to what appears to be a legitimate retail site. To avoid losing your money to a shopping scan, the FTC recommends:

  • Don’t rely on product or company reviews – they could be fake. Pay attention to reviews that you know come from experts and/or are on a credible, trustworthy website. Take the rest with a grain of salt.
  • Comparison shop online.
  • Ensure that the website is encrypted (with an “s” in a “https://”).
  • Pay by credit card, which will better enable you to dispute a charge.
  • “NEVER buy anything from online sellers that accept payment only by gift cards, money transfers through companies like Western Union or MoneyGram, or cryptocurrency,” the FTC warns. “Payments you make that way are nearly impossible to trace and reverse.”
  • Keep records of your transactions.

Cryptocurrency scams

Investment-related scams were the most prevalent type of fraud on social media, accounting for 37% of all losses.

People ages 18-39 were more than twice as likely as older adults to lose money from a social media scam, the FTC said.

Cryptocurrency is a type of digital currency – including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin – that typically exists electronically. Scammers quickly discovered ways to steal your money using cryptocurrency. Since there’s practically no way to get your money back once you’ve paid with cryptocurrency, fraudsters will insist that you pay with it.

Here are some of the business and investment scams you may encounter:

Scammers guarantee that you’ll turn a profit on their investment offer. Since there are no guarantees with legitimate investments, you’ll know this is a scam.

Some scammers say that you’ll earn the right to recruit others into a program if you pay in cryptocurrency. They promise you’ll get recruitment rewards paid in cryptocurrency, and the more you pay, the more you’ll make. More fake promises and guarantees!

Many scammers make investment claims without providing details or explanations. Careful investors insist on understanding their investments, and honest investment advisors readily share that information.

Fake apps

Apps, those handy applications on our smartphones and tablets can provide use with entertainment and enlightenment. Fraudulent apps have also bilked consumers out of approximately $48 million. Official app stores such as Apple and Google try to monitor all apps on their platforms, but some up-to-no-good apps slip through. If you’re looking for a specific app, be sure you get the real version, not a copycat app (which might even pop up before the legitimate app). Read reviews with a critical eye – scammers can generate fake reviews and likes. Be on the lookout for shady app behavior such as unnecessary permissions, using data when not in use, and not doing what it promised. And regularly clean unusued, out-of-date apps off your phone.

Authorized push payment (APP) fraud gets your money by tricking you into purchasing goods you’ll neve receive or posing as your bank and tricking you into making a transfer of funds.

Protect yourself from technology scams

As scammers become more sophisticated in their efforts to get your money, you must remain alert and protect yourself, whatever your age.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Don’t open suspicious texts or pop-up windows. If the text seems to be from a legitimate source (such as your bank), go to that source independently (your bank’s app or website, call a phone number on your statement, or go to a branch office).
  • Don’t click on links or attachments if you aren’t absolutely confident of the source.
  • Be sure that you’re using a legitimate website, not a look-alike site. If your browser warns you not to go to a site, don’t! Look for the “s” in “https://” in front of a web address (which indicates it is “s”ecure).
  • Delete any unsolicited emails and text messages that request personal information. Companies you already do business with will already know this information.
  • If you suspect someone is an imposter, verify their identity by calling the person through a known phone number or a mutual friend or a family member.
  • Don’t be rushed into sending money. Don’t send money to an unknown person or business through wire transfer, gift cards, or cash.
  • Don’t accept Facebook friend requests from people you don’t know, especially if they have no or few mutual friends.
  • If a caller asks you not to tell anybody else what’s going on, all of your alarm bells should go off! Disconnect immediately – and protect yourself from technology scams!

John Levan

Freelance writer John Levan focuses on insurance, finance, and manufacturing as well as senior living topics. Based in Pennsylvania, he earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from Alvernia University and Master of Arts in humanities from California State University, Dominguez Hills.