The Fraud Lifecycle

The Fraud Lifecycle

Fraud can affect anyone, regardless of their age. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most common scams categorized by the ages and life stages that are usually targeted and we included some tips on how you can spot them.

Babies & Children

Even the youngest members of our society are not immune to fraud. Child identity theft is a common concern and something all parents should watch for.

Fraudsters may go after a child’s identity for several reasons. First, children typically have clean credit. While most won’t even have a credit score since they don’t use credit, “no credit” can look better than “bad” credit. Scammers may use this to their advantage when trying to open new accounts or get approved for certain services.

Secondly, most parents aren’t checking their children’s credit, so scammers may believe they can fraudulently use the child’s information without getting caught.

To help prevent your young child’s information from being compromised, be vigilant about protecting their Social Security number and other personal information. Ask your doctor’s office or child’s school what they do to protect the personal information you provide. If you start getting preapproved credit offers, unexpected or incorrect medical bills, or collection calls in your child’s name, it’s a red flag for fraud.


In addition to identity theft, adolescents may often be the targets of phishing or smishing (phishing via text message) scams. These scams may be hidden as a fun game or phone app to download. Once these games or apps are downloaded and opened, fraudsters may have access to personal information on a computer or mobile device, such as a cell phone or Internet-connected tablet. These fraudulent apps are usually advertised as being free and may come filled with advertisements and typos.

It’s important to teach young people how to detect phishing attempts or other apps that may put malware on a device. Teach your child to research companies, read product reviews, and never open an attachment or click on a link from someone they don’t know.

Learn how to teach your kids good money habits.

College Students

College students are often strapped for cash and scammers take advantage of that. While many scams target college students, those involving scholarships and “card cracking” are some of the most common.

Scholarship scams attract students by promising to provide “guaranteed” scholarships or helping students find scholarship money for a fee. They target college students who may be feeling overwhelmed by the cost of college tuition. Once a student pays to apply or submits the fee, they’ll learn that the requirements for the “guaranteed” scholarship are impossible to meet or that there is really no scholarship at all.

Card cracking is another scam that often targets college students. In these instances, college students will be told that they can make money quickly by letting someone else use their bank account. The student provides their online banking account credentials and/or their debit card and PIN to the fraudster. The fraudster then deposits bogus checks via mobile deposit or ATMs and immediately withdraws the funds. The account is left with a negative balance, and the student is responsible for repaying their financial institution.

Among other things, signs of these scams include pressure to act quickly and promises that sound “too good to be true.” By thinking it through and doing their research, students can identify these as fraudulent offers and keep themselves and their money safe.

Young Adult

In the early stages of their careers, but often saddled with student debt and other bills, young adults are an easy target for scammers who are offering ways to make money quickly.

Work from home scams target those who may not be able to work outside the home – whether they’re staying home raising children or struggling to find employment in their field. These scams require you to pay a fee to get your training or startup kit, and once you pay, it never arrives. Or, they may ask for your bank account information to deposit checks and drain the account instead. Secret shopper scams target individuals in a similar way – the promise of an easy way to make cash, followed by money stolen from an account or a fraudulent fee.

Overpayment scams are another type of fraud commonly targeting young adults. This usually happens when someone is advertising a large item, such as a car, for sale online. The fraudster will provide a check for more than the agreed price and ask the victim to give them the change or pay a “third party” to ship the item. The checks are fake, leaving the seller without the large item or the cash.

Middle Age

Scammers often use scare tactics to target individuals who are middle aged. This may be in the form of an IRS scam, where a fraudster calls or emails someone claiming that they are going to be arrested for owing tax money.

Scammers also try to play on vulnerabilities when targeting victims. Middle-aged individuals are often the target for romance or inheritance scams. Romance scams occur when a scammer, using an online dating site or email, convinces an individual that they have fallen in love with them in an attempt to take their money. These fraudsters usually say they’re living in another country and need money to come to the United States or get out of trouble. Inheritance scams are also usually initiated by those in another country. A scammer may claim that a long-lost relative has left money for the target, but they will need to pay a fee to claim the funds.

Senior Citizens

Senior citizens, especially those who are grandparents, are often the targets for scams that tug on heartstrings.

A common grandparent scam is one in which the scammer calls a senior citizen, assuming they have a grandchild, and tells them their grandchild is in trouble and needs them to wire money immediately. Oftentimes, the scammer pretends to be the grandchild and won’t refer to themselves by name, but will say “Grandma/Grandpa, it’s me. I need your help. Please don’t tell my parents.”

Seniors are also commonly targets of lottery or charity scams. Charity scams occur when a fraudster claims to be collecting money for a good cause, but the organization doesn’t really exist, or the name is slightly different from a real charity. Here, scammers are playing on an individual’s desire to help those in need or during a difficult time.

Lottery scams occur when a scammer claims a victim has won the lottery but needs to send money or provide account information to receive the funds. Scammers are hoping that in the excitement, their victims will offer up the information or money without realizing the scammer is a fraud.

Be Vigilant

It’s clear that scammers are willing to do almost anything it takes to steal others’ financial or personal information for their own gain. Regardless of your age, it’s important to stay vigilant. Learn about common scams, how to detect them, and how to prevent becoming a victim. Taking the time to be informed now can save you time and hassle in the future.

Read more about how to protect your money in the security section of our blog.

The content provided in this publication is for informational purposes only. Nothing stated is to be construed as financial or legal advice. Some products not offered by PSECU. PSECU does not endorse any third parties, including, but not limited to, referenced individuals, companies, organizations, products, blogs, or websites. PSECU does not warrant any advice provided by third parties. PSECU does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information provided by third parties. PSECU recommends that you seek the advice of a qualified financial, tax, legal, or other professional if you have questions.