Recent studies suggest Generation Z, those 20 years old and younger, is more susceptible to online
scams than their elders.
Generation Z was the first to grow up in a substantially online world. Known for their hypoconnectivity,
constant smartphone use, and ease with new technologies, they are truly the children of the digital age.
But digital natives are falling for scams in the very world they were born into and claim to have
It may seem amusing to older generations, often stereotyped as “technologically challenged.” However,
they should clamp down on that burst of schadenfreude. No one is immune to the pitfalls of the
internet. Several redemptory factors contribute to this trend observed in studies.
New studies have revealed some startling statistics
In a study conducted by the online identity-verification service Social Catfish, cyber fraud among Gen
Z’ers has increased by 156% since 2017. That’s compared to a “mere” 112% rise among people aged 60
or older. The study suggests that Generation Z is so comfortable with being online and having their lives
on constant display that it makes them more trusting on the internet.
A different study by Deloitte indicates that, in the United States, individuals from Generation Z are three
times more likely to fall for online scams than Baby Boomers. They also have double the likelihood of
having their social media accounts compromised. Furthermore, 14% of the surveyed Gen Z’ers reported
misuse of their location information. That’s despite the well-known IP-location obscuring and other
safety benefits of a VPN.
What influences the statistics
Gen Z gets exposed to broadly the same types of scams that target everyone else online. Therefore, the
preferred explanation for the surprising statistics seems to be that Gen Z’s higher level of trust in “digital
people” is likely due to their familiarity with the digital environment.
But the explanation that their deep, lifelong exposure makes this age group very trusting online is just
too pat. Digging deeper highlights several other factors that may have played a role in these remarkable
Heaviest users of technology
Gen Z uses more tech in their lives than any other generation. That means they are exposed to much
larger volumes of deceptive messages than older people, which may increase the likelihood of falling for
Familiarity breeds contempt
Gen Z grew up with smartphones as an indispensable tool. They’ve become so familiar with the devices
that they regard them as an extension of themselves.
Unfortunately, frequent use leads to choosing convenience over safety. For example, the desire to react
to notifications immediately pushes staying permanently logged in to most online accounts. Adding an
extra level of security to restrict access to their phones or the apps can be anathema.
Online shopping first
Gen Z buys more things online and from more different retailers than previous generations. Their heavy
use of social media exposes them to many malicious promotional and advertising links on social media.
There are now so many fraudulent websites and e-commerce platforms that Gen Z is bound to
encounter scam websites more often than other users. The only remedy is using cybersecurity tools to
sniff out spoofed websites and fortify devices.
More platforms and more activity
Meeting people and networking online is a way of life for Gen Z. Older generations had to learn how to
meet people online, but Gen Z grew up with an internet-first social life. They may encounter more
romance scams than other age groups.
They’re also more active on more platforms than other generations. In fact, the Social Catfish study
showed that Gen Z intensively uses several social media platforms known for scamming activities,
including Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Google Hangouts.
The cyber landscape has become more dangerous
Advances in technology have made it easier for bad actors to scam people via the internet. For example,
phishing emails have not only become more common and increased in volume but have also become far
more subtle and dangerous.
Moreover, the dangers weren’t that apparent while they were growing up. Gen Z did not receive the
same cybersecurity awareness training as younger children. Nevertheless, Gen Z is highly aware of
online security, even if they sometimes fail to implement cyber hygiene practices in their daily lives.
The role of Big Tech
We should also consider that Big Tech grew up at the same time as Gen Z. Those early software
companies overwhelmingly used their carte blanche to entertain and grow a loyal audience during those
early years, forgetting that they bear a responsibility to keep their users safe. Big Tech must accept that
they may have a more significant role to play here in keeping the internet safe, and Generation Z may
play a pivotal role in bringing that shift about.