Men, young adults hit hardest by scams

A new Better Business Bureau report has discovered some surprising new data when it comes to finding out who is more vulnerable to scams.

The inaugural BBB Scam Tracker Annual Risk Report found men to be more susceptible than women, while young adults are more likely to lose money to a scam.

Better Business Bureau works to find trends in scams and schemes, and this year the BBB Institute came out with its first ever Risk Report. This report analyzed more than 32,000 reports made to BBB Scam Tracker in 2016. There is no doubt that scams have gone high tech, but the riskiest scam is the face-to-face home improvement scam, with fake check scams running a close second, according to the BBB Risk Index.

We found men were at a higher risk than women in seven of the top 10 scam categories; and consumers 18-24 are the most likely to lose money to a scam. The report found younger consumers have a lower median loss than people in their top earning years, partly because the types of scams aimed at older consumers tend to have higher median losses.

While seniors also tend to lose more money than millennials when they are scammed, they fall for scams far less often. And the biggest takeaway is that no one is immune from the risk posed by scams.

The BBB Risk Index measures risk along three dimensions:

• Exposure (how likely are you to be exposed to the con?)

• Susceptibility (if you are exposed, how likely are you to lose money?) and

• Monetary loss (if you do lose money, how much is it likely to be?).

The formula is: Exposure X Susceptibility X Monetary Loss = Risk Index.

Based on the BBB Risk Index, the riskiest top five scams overall are:

• Home improvement scams

• Fake checks and money orders

• Employment scams

• Online purchase scams

• Advance fee loan scams

The BBB Risk Index looks beyond volume of reports and instead studies loss from the scam. For instance, the scam most reported to BBB Scam Tracker in 2016 — by far — was the tax scam. However, consumers are savvy to this con and rarely fall for it, so it did not even make the BBB Risk Index’s top 10. Employment scams were three times as risky for consumers as tax scams, and ranked third on the BBB Risk Index.

Home improvement scams, ranked first on the BBB Risk Index, were the only category in the top 10 to rely on in-person contact. Because of the highly personal nature of this scam – someone literally at your doorstep – the exposure rate was low but the susceptibility rate and the median loss were both very high, making it the riskiest scam of all.

Knowing this information can help you protect yourself and loved ones from scams and identity theft. We’ll continue to use this data within our tips each week. If you’d like to learn more, the full report is available at bbb.org/RiskReport. Consumers and businesses are urged to report all scams to BBB Scam Tracker at bbb.org/scamtracker, whether or not money is actually lost.


Emily Valla is the marketplace director for Better Business Bureau Northwest: Idaho and Western Wyoming. Contact her at 208-523-9754 or by emailing emily.valla@thebbb.org.