Legal Matters: Fraud Reports from the FTC and the FBI

On June 15, 2021, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) released its 2020 Elder Fraud Report. According to the report, IC3 received a total of 791,790 complaints in 2020, with reported losses exceeding $4.1 billion. About 28% of the total fraud losses were sustained by victims over the age of 60, and seniors suffered approximately $1 billion in losses. This represents an increase of about $300 million in losses in 2020 over what was reported by victims over 60 in 2019.
The FBI Elder Fraud Report also said the “average victim over 60 lost nearly $9,200 and that nearly 2,000 senior victims lost more than $100,000 each.” The largest increase came in tech-support scams, which exceeded $116 million in 2020 from less than $38.5 million in 2019. According to the Federal Trade Commission, younger people reported losing money to fraud more often than older people (44% of victims were aged 20 – 29 vs 20% aged 70 – 79); however, when people aged 70+ suffered a loss the median loss was much higher ($635 for ages 70 – 79 and $1300 for ages 80+, vs $324 for ages 20 – 29).

The FBI reports that the most common types of identity theft and fraud scams encountered by individuals 60 years of age and over included:

  • Tech support scam: Criminals access victims’ devices by posing as support representatives offering to repair issues. 
  • Romance scam: Bad guys approach victims on online dating sites and form relationships to extract money.
  • Investment fraud: Promises of high returns on investments are offered online or at in person events.
  • Grandparent scam: Criminals pretend to be a family member in distress needing immediate funds.
  • Government impersonation scam: Criminals pose as government employees and threaten to arrest or prosecute victims unless they agree to provide payments.
  • Sweepstakes/charity/lottery scam: The bad guys claim to represent charities and solicit donations. Or they claim that the victim has won a prize and needs to pay a fee to collect their winnings.
  • Home repair scam: Criminals charge homeowners in advance for home improvement services that they never provide.
    TV/radio scam: Hearing it on the radio or TV doesn’t make it legitimate. Crooks may advertise to find victims.
  • Family/caregiver scam: The people closest to the victim may be the ones who steal from them, including relatives or caregivers.

Know how to protect yourself, and let family members know that they can protect themselves by: (1) learning to recognize common scams; (2) resisting pressure to act quickly, as scammers create a sense of urgency to avoid letting victims have time to think or get more information; (3) being wary of unsolicited phone calls, mailings, and door-to-door service offers; (4) protecting your identity by never sharing your personally identifiable information (PII); and (5) making sure your computer anti-virus, security software and malware protections are up to date.