Scammers are targeting Millennials, experts say

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The stereotype is staggering. Nobody seems to have any doubt that senior citizens are the most vulnerable age group when it comes to scams. Even senior citizens think they're the favorite target for crooks.

But they are not and when we tried to tell senior citizen Priscilla Klum scam artists really prefer millennial's, she seemed pretty sure we were scamming her.

"I don't know why they would more-so than senior citizens," said Klum.

That skepticism is the very reason researchers for the Better Business Bureau found seniors less likely to become scam victims. Only 11-percent of seniors actually lost money in scams. Millennials were three times as likely to fall for fraud, in part because of what's called "optimism bias." Younger people do not think they are targets, so they are not as cautious.

"And we're not reaching the millennial's because we're not interacting with them, we're not engaging them through social media the way that we should," said Cindy Dudley, BBB.

Whoever the victims, financial fraud can ruin credit, empty a bank account, and trickle up to damage local businesses.

"There's an estimated $50 billion in money that was lost," said Dudley.

To put that number in perspective, the Walt Disney Company-- our parent company and the owners of movies, theme parks, and resorts-- had just less than $50 billion in revenue in 2014. Scammers made more by using disguises to manipulate people of all ages.

We showed millennial's and seniors the same four offers-- two using email and two that come in your regular mailbox. Nobody correctly caught that all four offers were scams.

Seniors seemed more likely to trust the snail mail offers while millennial's preferred the emails.

Six of the BBB's top 10 scams of 2015 used social media or email as the vector.

"A lot of the online stuff would make sense to target millennial's with because they live most of their lives online," said Adrian Solis, Fresno State Student.

Seniors are still getting hit through the mail and by phone scams. But years of experience and repeated warnings in the media have more of them on alert.

One senior told us he recently took the bait on a Publishers Clearinghouse scam. But when the caller asked for a money order and promised a private meeting, he caught on.

"So I called the police and they waited across the street," said Ronnie, Clovis.

That's one scam stymied.

The best way to protect yourself from scams is to know what is out there. The Better Business Bureau has a scam tracker on its website.

And if you do get suckered, don not stay quiet-- 80-percent of the people BBB surveyed said they avoided a scam because they had heard someone else talk about it.
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