The latest BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report shows that consumers ages 18-24 have the highest susceptibility for falling victim to scams. My generation grew up online and put our lives onto the web, meaning we see scams most often and sometimes without even knowing it. That email from that Nigerian Prince looked fake, but they don’t all look like that. I regularly get emails from ‘Apple’ or my bank telling me that I’ve been hacked or I made a purchase that was suspicious and I needed to confirm my information. With one click, a hacker gets my bank account, social security number, and other personal information.
I also carry my computer/wallet/entire life history in my pocket in the form of my phone. I see several bad examples around me—my dad who pays for everything with his locked phone but has left his wallet in the car; other family members who do not have a lock code on their phone or leave them out in plain view in the car; or my friends who walk away from their backpack with their ID and debit cards inside. If they were taken, not only would they lose the phone or wallet but then could lose all the money in their accounts and the other private information inside.
Those pesky scammers could ‘airdrop’ any number of viruses on your phone, disguised as a meme. Scammers sending you an official looking email that could lead to you getting hacked. Any number of things could lead to you or your contact list losing money. James Vietch, a British comedian, has a series about scammers. At one of his TED Talks, he explains that the email ‘RoyalBS@gmail.co.uk’ is not the valid email of the Royal Bank of Scotland. We sometimes don’t think about it when we see that ‘Apple’ is telling us about how our iCloud account has been hacked. Looking at the address line of where emails come from could save us from giving our money or email to a random guy across the country.
Putting your wallet and your entire life on your phone is a dangerous idea. I don’t mean that phones are all bad but it’s risky and we need precautions. I encourage my family to make sure they are keeping their phones with them if we are out in public. My aunt bought a fanny pack to put her phone and wallet in so that she does not leave it behind or fall out of her pocket. My grandpa has taken to wearing shirts with front pockets in them so that he can slip his little phone into his pocket when he gets out of his truck. I have also made sure that my phone and theirs are as protected as possible with two factor authentication and passwords on the lock screens and by not using the same password on everything.
We have to consider what the email or message is asking us to do. If it sounds way too good to be true, it probably is and you don’t get stuff for free-no matter how many times Bill Gates promises to share his money with us. Two seconds of thinking and 30 seconds of checking can stop 95% of the scams. If I get a strange message from a friend or family member, I can call that person and ask rather than just accept the email as true. I encourage my friends to do the same. Watching for scams, using our voices instead of texts or emails, and being careful of what a ‘company’ is asking for money and telling us we’ve been hacked, is the easiest way to make sure we don’t fall for scams.