The Federal Trade Commission’s annual report to Congress on protecting older adults, issued this week, provides a detailed look at the scams that most often affect adults over 60, as well as the FTC’s research, law enforcement, and education efforts aimed at protecting older consumers—a top priority for the agency.
As part of the FTC’s efforts to understand how fraud is affecting older adults, the report, Protecting Older Consumers 2019-2020: A Report of the Federal Trade Commission, includes analysis of FTC consumer complaint data. In 2019, as in prior years, older adults (aged 60 and older) were less likely than younger adults (aged 20 to 59) to report losing money to fraud, but reported much higher individual dollar losses. In fact, people aged 80 and older reported losing the most, with a median individual reported loss of $1,600.
Although they were less likely to report falling victim to fraud overall, adults aged 60 and older were more likely to report losing money to certain specific types of scams. They were nearly six times more likely to report losing money to tech support scams than younger consumers, according to the report, and were three times more likely to report losses due to prize, sweepstakes, and lottery scams. They were also more than twice as likely as younger adults to report losses due to impostor fraud where someone was impersonating a friend or family member.
The most frequent type of fraud reported by older adults was online shopping scams, which mirrored a significant increase in that type of scam reported in the early months of the pandemic across all age groups.
Older adults reported losing the most money to romance scams, with $84 million in reported losses, followed by government imposter scams at $61 million, and prizes, sweepstakes, and lottery scams at $51 million.
In addition to the analysis of complaints, the report also focuses on key enforcement actions the FTC has taken to protect older consumers, including against pyramid schemes and other money-making scams, bogus credit card interest rate reduction schemes, deceptive publications, and companies making unsubstantiated health claims (including some claims related to the coronavirus pandemic). The report highlights a number of ongoing law enforcement partnerships in which the FTC works with other federal agencies, along with state and local authorities, to take actions to protect older consumers.
Finally, the report details the FTC’s outreach and education efforts through such programs as the Pass it On campaign, which focuses on providing fraud prevention resources to older adults so they can help protect their communities by sharing the information and materials with family and friends.
The Commission voted 5-0 to approve the report to Congress, with Commissioner Rohit Chopra issuing a separate statement.
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