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DENVER (KDVR) — Online scams are becoming more and more prevalent alongside the use of technology.

Social Catfish, a company dedicated to preventing online scams through reverse search technology, works with the AARP, Better Business Bureau, FTC, and the FBI to gather information.

new study found tech-savvy teens are falling for online scams at a higher rate than seniors.

The money lost by victims under 20 years old grew by 1,125% over the last five years compared to 390% for seniors. Teens lost $8.2 million in 2017 compared to $101.4 million last year.

“They’re growing up in this TikTok generation, the iPhone generation, where it’s really cool to talk to strangers online. Whereas when you and I grew up, we were always told to not talk to strangers. A big thing that’s making these young people get scammed because they’re so confident online and everybody wants to be the next TikTok star. People are [getting] their advice from people on social media versus googling it and doing their due diligence,” David McClellan, the CEO and founder of Social Catfish, said.

4 common scams targeting teens and how to avoid them in 2022:

  1. “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.
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Social Catfish is advising parents to monitor their child’s social media, make sure their accounts are private, make sure whoever they’re messaging is actually the person they say they are, and educate them about online scams.

Social Catfish also released a study on the State of Internet Scams 2022 using 2022 data from the FBI IC3 and FTC.

Colorado is the 14th most-scammed state in the nation with 10,537 victims losing $133,666,156 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.  

The main factors that determine state rankings are population, better internet access and technology usage, as well as disposable income.

They warn that scammers are using a click-run method to get you to make decisions quickly.

“All these scams, they’re tailored toward this click-run type reaction where somebody makes a decision without having been able to step back or do their due diligence. Sometimes they play into greed a little bit. Sometimes they play into emotions, sometimes they play into fear, but it’s usually in a way that makes you make a decision right away where you make that mistake,” McClellan said.

5 big red flags to look for in an online scam:

  • Poor grammar in messages
  • Refusal to video chat (especially in romance scams)
  • Claim to be in the military
  • Claim to work overseas
  • Ask for money usually in gift cards or cryptocurrency