By far, senior citizens remain the most victimized group when it comes to scams over the web.

But research shows that the bad actors are having a field day with another demographic: teenagers.

According to a Social Catfish analysis of FBI and FTC data, teens and children recorded the highest percentage increase in money lost to online scams over a five-year period.

From 2017 to 2022, money lost by victims aged 20 and younger shot up by nearly 2,500%, from $8.2 million in 2017 to $210 million in 2022. Senior citizens were scammed out of $3.1 billion over that time.

"The surge of young victims speaks to the growing sophistication of scammers," the website says.

A Social Catfish poll of thousands of scam victims suggests that most online scams occur through Facebook, followed by Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, and Instagram.

Ian Marlow, CEO of FitechGelb, said it's no surprise that younger users are falling for web-based scams at a faster pace — minors are getting their own devices at younger ages compared to a decade ago.

On top of that, he said, teens and kids may have access to the payment options their parents use, or they've been provided by their parents with their own cards to use at their discretion.

"They have the device, they have the ability to pay ... so of course that's going to give the ability to be scammed," Marlow told New Jersey 101.5.

And there's not much buyer protection within easy-to-use payment apps, Marlow added.

Cybersecurity experts advise teens, and all online users, to watch out for fake websites that look like an online store selling items at a huge discount. To avoid a scam, research the company, search their pages for typos, and be weary of customer service emails that end in or

Other threats include romance and sextortion scams — bad actors prey on teens' emotions before asking for money, or get the young user to send over an explicit image or video and threaten to make the material public if a ransom is not paid.

Experts fear online scams will start victimizing more people — even the most tech-savvy individuals — with the explosion of artificial intelligence. Newer tactics such as "voice cloning" and "deep fake" videos make it look like one is giving money to someone they know or trust.

According to Social Catfish, New Jersey is the sixth-most scammed state overall. Garden Staters, across all demographics, lost more than $284 million in 2022.

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