(WTAJ) — A new study shows that Pennsylvania ranks number five for money lost in scams, with teenagers being a rapidly growing target.
The study, released by socialcatfish.com, shows that money lost by victims under 20 grew by 1,125% over the last five years while seniors’ losses grew by 390% in the same time frame. Teens reportedly lost just $8.2 million in 2017 compared to $101.4 million last year.
Pennsylvania is the No. 5 most-scammed state in the nation with 17,262 victims losing $206,982,032 in 2021.
Nationally, a record $6.9 billion was lost to online scams in 2021, up nearly double from $3.5 billion in 2019 prior to the pandemic.
While seniors remain the most victimized group overall, the surge of Gen Z victims speaks to the evolving sophistication of scammers.
The company says this is a great time for parents and teachers to talk to their kids/students about online safety.
4 Common Scams Targeting Teens and How to Avoid Them in 2022:
‘Sextortion’: The FBI announced a dramatic increase in ‘Sextortion’ plots against teenage boys. Scammers pose as attractive females on social media, send nude photos, and ask for the same in return. Once received, the victim is told if he does not send money, the photo will be sent to all his friends and family and posted online.
How to Avoid: Perform a reverse image search to confirm if the person you are chatting with online is who they say they are.
Student Loan Forgiveness: Since the government announced up to $20,000 in student loans can be forgiven, fake websites with imposter Department of Education logos are tricking people into providing their bank and personal information in hopes of having their debt forgiven.
How to Avoid: Only use the Department of Education’s official financial site StudentAid.gov.
Online Gaming: Players use credit cards to make in-game purchases that will help them win. Scammers pose as fake vendors and send phishing links during the in-game chat to make these purchases. If clicked, the criminal will have access to all your information.
How to Avoid: Do not click on links in your direct messages (DM’s). Even if the link is from a friend, call them to verbally verify.
Talent Scout: Users on Instagram and TikTok receive DM’s offering modeling and acting opportunities. They ask for a fee to apply but of course, there is no job waiting. They will request personal information during the “application process” and use it to commit identity theft.
How to Avoid: Be wary of DM’s offering fame and fortune. Do research on the company first.
SocialCatfish.com said they used 2022 data from the FBI, IC3 and FTC for this report.