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Who's most likely to fall victim to a scam? Not little old ladies, a new study says

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A lot of us have stereotypes about who loses money to scammers.

It's probably mostly senior citizens, we think. And they're most likely pretty gullible. Maybe not very well educated.

A researcher with the Better Business Bureau who's studied the issue says those stereotypes are strong – and they're wrong.

The new paper from the Bureau's Institute for Marketplace Trust says Millenials are actually more vulnerable to scams than Baby Boomers.

How can this be true?

The study from the BBB Institute (you can get a copy of it here) says most consumers think scams happen to other people and don't consider themselves vulnerable. The "Invulnerability Illusion" is what researchers call this.

People who feel this way are more likely to take risks and pay less attention to precautions.

Seniors generally do not have the "Invulnerability Illusion," the BBB's research says. In fact, because they know they're targeted, they may actually be more savvy about scams than other age groups.

They also say seniors tend to be less impulsive about spending money and make fewer purchases online, which is where most scams occur these days.

 What kinds of scams are we talking about?

There's a big wide range of scams and new ones are being invented all the time.

The Pokemon Go craze, for example, has already spawned some. Police in Chaska tell WCCO scammers are sending emails telling players the app is no longer free and they'll need to start paying a monthly fee.

Other examples noted by include bogus online dating sites, debt collection scams, fake rental ads, sales of worthless or non-existent products, and work-at-home schemes.

They note a study by Stanford University's Financial Fraud Research Center a few years ago also found that all types of people are vulnerable, though particular scams may be tailored to dupe certain types of people.

How much is lost to scammers?

In 2012 Stanford put it in the $40 billion to $50 billion range.

The BBB's new study puts it at $50 billion. They also note the ripple effect of those losses because that $50 billion is directed to an underground economy instead of being spent at legitimate businesses.

What can we do about this?

The Better Business Bureau has three suggestions. First, they say, people need to ditch the stereotypes and know that we're all vulnerable to scams.

Preemptive information is important – knowing what types of scams are out there and the methods scammers use can help protect you.

Finally, if you do get scammed it's important to tell other people about it. This can be tough because we're often embarrassed to admit we've been taken in by a scam. But a crowd sourcing site can be a good place to warn others about the scam you fell for. The BBB started such a site (called Scam Tracker) last year and already more than 30,000 scams have been reported through it.

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