Home Business Americans think their older loved ones are more vulnerable to scammers–but Gen Zers report having fallen for scams more than any other generation

Americans think their older loved ones are more vulnerable to scammers–but Gen Zers report having fallen for scams more than any other generation

Americans think their older loved ones are more vulnerable to scammers–but Gen Zers report having fallen for scams more than any other generation


While fraudsters’ tactics have evolved throughout my career as head of financial crimes and fraud prevention at Citi and during the more than two decades I spent at the FBI, one thing has stayed the same: No one thinks they’re going to be scammed.

Most Americans overrate their abilities to avoid scams, according to a recent Citi survey. Some 90% of U.S. adults believe they’re able to spot financial scams–but more than a quarter (27%) report having fallen victim.

Today’s scammers are nimble and aided by sophisticated tools. They often deal in volume, and it only takes one successful attempt to profit. Ultimately, all ages and demographics are at risk.

No one is immune

While Citi’s survey revealed that three in four Americans are concerned about an older loved one falling victim to a scam, the survey suggests digitally native generations are at risk, too. A third of Gen Z respondents report having been a victim of a financial scam–more than any other generation. 

Whether Gen Zers are more vulnerable to scammers or more aware of the fact that they’ve been scammed is unclear. What is clear, though, is that fraudsters are getting better at targeting everyone, regardless of their digital fluency–so preparedness is crucial.

To achieve a happy, fraud-free new year, remain vigilant, listen to your instincts, and learn to spot red flags. While scammers are constantly updating their tactics, here are some ways they might try to sabotage your financial goals:

  • Claiming to be from your bank’s fraud department, asking you to move money to keep it safe from fraudsters. Never share your debit pin, one-time password, or login credentials verbally or through an email or text–even with someone claiming to be from your bank. Importantly, your bank will never ask you to move your money or initiate a transaction to “correct” a fraudulent one.
  • Pretending to be the delivery company behind your recent purchase and claiming, via email or text, that they can’t deliver your package. They want you to click the link so they can capture the personal and financial information you enter. Or the link could infect your device with harmful malware to steal your information. Remember: Don’t click any links they send. Instead, verify with the shipment company’s website.
  • Taking advantage of your decision to use public Wi-Fi. Using a public network makes you more vulnerable to hackers, who can more easily access the personal information you share online. Use a private Wi-Fi network. 

Protecting yourself from scammers

While scams are rampant, the good news is that everyone can take steps to minimize their risk. First, look to trusted sources to arm yourself with information. When asked about the resources they trust most for scam prevention information, 55% of Americans cited their bank among their top three, along with taking advice from friends and family (44%) and listening to their instincts by drawing on their own past experiences (41%). 

There are simple steps you can take to shore up your digital defenses: 

  • Enable face or fingerprint logins on your smartphone and banking apps. These can prevent scammers from gaining access should they get ahold of your devices.
  • Create long, unique passwords for each account. Remember: Longer is stronger. 
  • Spend two minutes each day reviewing your accounts for fraudulent activity. Don’t wait for your monthly statement.
  • Enable account alerts and two-factor authentication to a trusted device.

Like all things in life, approaching your incoming communications with a healthy sense of skepticism is a good idea–even those simply asking you to “click this link.” According to our survey, almost four in 10 Americans to have fallen for a scam did so because they “trusted their scammer.” Scammers want you to act without thinking. They’re adept at quickly gaining your confidence and impersonating sources you trust such as your bank’s fraud department, a financial advisor, or even a member of your own family. Before clicking or sharing, consider who’s on the receiving end. What are their motivations? Is this really urgent? Does their story have holes? 

Additionally, you should not respond to communications from unknown sources. If anyone contacts you over text, email, or phone claiming to be from your bank, for example, politely hang up and call the number found on the back of your card or website to verify the interaction.

By prioritizing digital safety, learning about scammers’ tactics, and taking the time to set up defenses, you may save yourself–and perhaps your loved ones–from losing the money, time, and peace of mind that you deserve.

Michael Steinbach is head of financial crimes and fraud prevention at Citi. Before joining Citi, Michael held various positions at the FBI during his 22 years with the organization, culminating in his role as executive assistant director of the National Security Branch.

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The opinions expressed in Fortune.com commentary pieces are solely the views of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.

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