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Financial fraud hits all ages

Created date

June 13th, 2018

Financial scams and fraud can certainly impact all age groups. But many people have a perception that older adults, for whatever reason, are more susceptible to scams. Well, it turns out that isn’t true: In fact, Millennials are more likely to fall prey to con artists than seniors, according to the most recent data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Earlier this year, the FTC found that a whopping 40% of people age 20 to 29 reported losing money to fraud in 2017. Meanwhile, a mere 18% of people age 70-plus reported they were victims of financial scams.

Losses are higher

However, there was one important distinction between young people and older adults when it comes to financial fraud. When they do become victims, seniors often lose more money than their younger counterparts. People over age 80 reported a median loss of $1,092, while people in their 20s only reported a median loss of $400, according to the FTC.

Emphasizing just how big a problem financial scams are, the FTC reported that U.S. consumers lost a stunning $905 million to con artists in 2017. That figure is $63 million more than the amount reported in 2016.

“While we received fewer overall complaints in 2017, consumers reported losing more money to fraud than they did the year before,” Tom Pahl, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “This underscores the importance of the FTC’s work in educating consumers and cracking down on the scammers who try to take their money.”

So, how are con artists wreaking havoc on our wallets and bank accounts?

Identity theft and imposter scams are at the top of the list of consumer complaints, according to FTC data. Identity theft accounted for 14% of complaints, with credit card fraud and tax fraud being the most common forms.

Meanwhile, consumers lost the most money—a whopping $328 million—last year to imposter scams. In an attempt to take your money, con artists often pretend to be a government official, tech support representative, or loved one in distress. Although the Internet has a bad reputation as a place where people can get scammed, 70% of consumers actually reported that fraudsters contacted them by phone. Wire transfer was the most common form of payment to scammers.

“The government will not ask a consumer to wire money, and it is illegal for telemarketers to ask you to pay by wire,” the FTC cautioned in a statement. “Consumers who get a suspicious call should take their time and check it out. Call the government agency on a phone line you know to be real—not the phone number given by the suspicious caller.”

To protect yourself from imposters trying to take your money, familiarize yourself with the most common scams at FTC.gov/Imposters. One of the schemes is the “grandkid scam,” in which you get a call from someone posing as your grandchild, asking you to wire money for bail, a medical bill, or other emergency.

Another scheme is the “tech support scam.” In this scenario, you get a call from someone indicating they’re a technician from a large company like Microsoft or your Internet service provider. They’ll tell you there are viruses on your computer, and they need remote access to fix it. Next thing you know, they’ve hacked into your system and can see your personal information.

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