The new majority: Millennials, not elderly, being scammed the most

By COLE LAUTERBACH, The Center Square

A millennial answering an internet question recently described the Better Business Bureau as “like Yelp for old people,” but Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the BBB of Chicago and Northern Illinois, said that’s not the case.

“A lot of consumers think as we’ve been an organization for a long time, so people (think) we might be outdated, but that’s far from the truth,” Bernas said. “As we get more involved in today’s marketplace, we actually are global in nature now, which means we are not only educating consumers here in North America, we also have bureaus in Canada; we have a bureau in Mexico City. We are also educating consumers throughout the world; a few weeks ago, we helped a West African TV station report on puppy scams.”

Bernas said that the transition to online commerce has created a host of new types of crimes and a new demographic of victims.

“The BBB recently commissioned several studies, and what we have found out is that the majority of consumers who have the most complaints are millennials and the younger generation,” he said.

For example, in one recent study of rental fraud, the majority of victims were aged 18 to 39, who had been looking for apartments or vacation rentals.

Additionally, another recently study on check fraud found most of the victims were millennials, Bernas said.

A combination of factors – including sophisticated scammers who can make their emails, texts and phone calls appear to come from a legitimate organization; a lack of experience and consumer education; and the rise of an informal economy that takes place online in forums such as Craigslist and Facebook – make millennials a tempting target, Bernas said.

But, Bernas added, anyone can fall prey to an unscrupulous fraudster. He recommends people check out before parting with their money.

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