If you want to scam a Gen-Z-er, maybe DM them on TikTok with a fake job-offer, a lie about student-loan forgiveness or a debt-relief scam – each one playing upon how hopeless, studies tell us, members of this generation feel about their prospects of financial independence.

We millennials and Gen X-ers may have more material possessions and worldly responsibilities than our successors, but we’re also more likely to fall for a spammy text message providing an update on when our next package will arrive.

As for Boomers potentially feeling lonely in their older age, fraudsters can find them on Facebook, or dating apps that cater to a more mature audience.

Fraudsters Tarnish the Golden Years

A recent study suggests scammers target all four of the generations almost equally – perhaps in contrast to ageist assumptions that the elderly are more susceptible to scam attempts than the rest of us. But it is true that older generations – having finished their careers and secured the assets necessary to live out the rest of their lives without a salary – possess more wealth. They also have more time on their hands and, increasingly, fewer living peers, sending many elderly people in search of companionship and romance online.

This combination of free time to spend on social media and increasing isolation provides fertile soil for fraudsters, who spend a lot of time farming in this space. Said another way: The elderly offer a rich target in a target-rich environment. 

An FTC report found 70,000 people reported falling victim to a romance scam in 2022, suffering approximately $1.3 billion in losses. While not all of those victims were Boomers, it seems likely older generations accounted for the lion’s share of losses. 

This creates a unique problem for financial services fraud teams. Regulations require them to prevent, recognize, record, and report attacks against at-risk populations as “Elder Abuse” or “Elder financial exploitation.” Those teams must devote significant resources to adhere to these requirements, making romance scams targeting the elderly costly on multiple levels.

True Love or True Lies? Behavior Reveals All

To lower that cost and increase the success rate of protecting elders from these scams, financial services fraud teams and the banks that employ them need to add additional risk-indicators, apply those to higher-precision controls, and leverage detection strategies.

BioCatch offers a suite of tools tailored to assist with this work. Our Age Analysis feature can detect specific discrepancies between a user’s behavior and their stated age. For example, does the speed of the user’s keystrokes match the cadence of other users in that age group? This can also help a bank identify if a user is indeed a protected elderly individual who should have a distinct and conditional set of controls applied to their online banking activity.

Couple that feature with our Scam modules ability to filter high-risk transactions and apply wrap-around services, and we start to create a new approach to preventing elder abuse. Layering BioCatch’s unique features and efficiently distributing a financial institution’s both scarce resources and the time of their fraud specialists and investigators is a massive force-multiplier in both combatting this threat and ultimately preventing the bank from running afoul of elder abuse compliance regulations.

Romance scams will always exist, and the scammers behind them will always target the populations they deem most vulnerable, but a strategy of addressing the risks where they are and applying the right controls can protect the most vulnerable banking customers without devoting the majority of a fraud team’s resources to do so.

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