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Why Gen Z Is Surprisingly Susceptible to Financial Scams

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The internet reacted in horror last week at the story of how a financial-advice columnist at The Cut lost $50,000 in a scam, but for many young adults, the tale may be uncomfortably familiar.

While younger, digital savvy folks may be adept at using the internet, Generation Z—born between 1995 and 2012—is more than three times as likely to fall for online scams compared to baby boomers, per a 2023 Deloitte report.

Experts say part of the reason for that is scams are often tailored to the younger generation—more than half of which spends an average of at least four hours on social media daily. “Older generations are going to [fall for] standard phishing schemes through email, or where they get you on the phone, and tell you that your children and grandchildren are in trouble,” says Jonathan H. Swanburg, president of TSA Wealth Management. “The younger generation may just see an ad on Facebook, or Instagram, or TikTok for some investment that's going to pay you 10% a month with no risk.”

Financial planners point to these get-rich-quick schemes as opportunities to prey on the generation that has inherited iNFLation, high housing costs, and increased debt. At the same time, younger adults are generally more trusting of what they see online. A Pew Research Center report from 2022 found that adults under age 30 are almost as likely to trust the information they see on social media as information they learn from national media outlets.

“They are not vetting the way you would vet a property manager, or would allow the property manager to do the right amount of research to fix something for you,” says Catherine Valega, a certified financial planner based in Winchester, Mass. “You have too much information coming from people who aren't really credentialed. With the onset of social media, it probably made things 10 times worse for the younger generation.”

Falling for a scam can prove pricey. In 2023, consumers lost an all-time high of more than $10 billion to fraud, according to data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). That number is a 14% increase of reported losses compared to the year prior.

Experts warn that the number of people that fall for frauds or scams may only increase as scams become more complex. Andrew Fincher, a certified financial planner, notes that scammers often attempt to disguise their messages as real emails, texts, or phone calls from a bank—which could be particularly pernicious for the younger adults more comfortable living their lives online. Advancements in AI can also pose risks to consumers as Technology makes the scams increasingly elaborate and realistic. “If you're not paying attention to it, it's a lot easier to let things go by the wayside,” he says. "Younger adults, typically are going to have a lot more of their finances online—so they do mobile banking, saving passwords in your phone, using similar passwords." That can make it a lot easier for scammers to access multiple accounts if there's a security breach.

"The older generation doesn't have a problem with that because they were never addicted to [being] online and things were never that easy," adds Valega. "They've also had complete distrust of everything online and digital."

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