Millennials are the most likely to fall for online scams

Emma McGowan 30 Aug 2022

It’s possible that the combination of Millennial comfort with the internet, plus greater time online and a bit of hubris all combine to make them more vulnerable to falling for online scams.

When you picture someone getting scammed online, who do you picture? Maybe a grandparent, like Phyllis, who was robbed of $20,000 via a tech support scam. And while elderly people are absolutely at risk of being targeted by scammers, a recent survey from Avast found that the people most likely to fall for online scams are Millennials, at least in the United States.

The survey included 1,000 people from all four regions of the US and was split about evenly between men and women. The age categories were 18 to 24, 25 to 34, 35 to 44, 45 to 54, and 55 or more. The survey asked respondents about their experiences with scammers, including being targeted by scammers and falling for scams, among other things. 

Question 3 asked: “Did you end up falling victim to an online fraud/scam? E.g. filling in your bank details somewhere without realizing it was a scam or being romantically targeted by someone pretending to be someone else.” 

While the majority of people hadn’t fallen for a scam, here were the percentages per age group who had been victimized once or more:

18 to 24

24 to 34

35 to 44

45 to 54

55 or more






As you can see, the two age groups that include Millennials — 24 to 34 and 35 to 44 — were significantly more likely to have fallen for a scam. And the oldest cohort in the survey (those age 55 or older) were the least likely to have fallen for a scam.

Surprised? So were we! There’s a common conception that Millennials are the first digital natives and therefore are super tech savvy. And while that’s at least partially true — younger Millennials in particular were the first to grow up with the internet and therefore, as a group, tend to know more about it than Gen X or the Boomers — it also means that this age group likely has spent and currently spends the most time online in more capacities. 

For example, many Millennials first got online via AOL CD-roms that were mailed to their parents’ houses in the mid-90s. Contemporary social media was invented and popularized primarily by Millennials. And there’s been an explosion in “knowledge jobs” (i.e. ones that are primarily done on a computer) over the past two decades, which is right when this age group started and built their careers. 

Boomers and older Gen X, on the other hand, definitely did not grow up online. By the time those AOL CDs were in every mailbox in America, Gen X was already in college. And older Boomers can still remember televisions that had literal tubes in them. That means that, as a group, they’ve spent a smaller portion of their lives online when compared with Millennials.

Some of the difference between how many Millennials have fallen for scams vs how many Men X and Boomers have fallen for scams could be because of this vast differential in time spent online, because more time online naturally opens one up to more potential scams and scammers. It’s also possible that Millennials are more trusting online than Gen X or Boomers because they’re more comfortable there. They’ve been talking to strangers on the internet since elementary school and they think they know how to navigate that world. 

The problem is, of course, that scammers are always evolving and finding new ways to utilize social engineering to get what they want. It’s possible that the combination of Millennial comfort with the internet, plus greater time online, plus a bit of hubris all combine to make them more vulnerable to falling for online scams.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Gen Z has never known a world without the internet. In fact, there are young people today who are old enough to drink and have never lived in a world without phones that are connected to the internet. They’ve spent the highest proportion of their lives online. So, based on our previous analysis, why aren’t they falling for as many scams as Millennials are?

The first reason could be that they just haven’t been online long enough yet, despite having spent a larger portion of their life online than any other age group. Every hour spent online increases the likelihood that a scammer will try to reach out to you via social media or a messaging app or a text message. Gen Z’s number might climb as they get older; there’s just no way to know at this point.

But they might not, because the lower percentage could also indicate that we, as a society, are doing a better job educating our young people about the risks they might encounter online. If that’s the case, then Gen Z has the potential to reverse the trajectory that the Millennials started, keep those “have been scammed” numbers low as they age. 

Regardless of your age, if you’ve been a victim of a scam, remember this: It’s literally the scammer’s job to scam you. They spend as much time as you spend at your job coming up with new ways to trick you into handing over your hard-earned cash. So, ultimately, it’s not you. Really. 

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