Imposter scams, debt collection scams, and identity theft were the top three kinds of fraud and scams reported to the Federal Trade Commission and its partners in 2018, the agency said.
In all, the FTC received nearly three million consumer complaints, and nearly half of those – 1.4 million – were about fraud. One-fourth of those consumers reported losing money to fraudsters. Overall, consumers reported losing $1.48 billion to fraud in 2018, an increase of 38 percent over 2017. The median amount lost per consumer was about $375.
The FTC maintains a network of complaints made by consumers to the agency, as well as reports received from state and federal law enforcement; national consumer protection groups; and non-governmental organizations. The Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book is released annually, with consumer complaint data released quarterly online. The online database is available for use by more than 2,500 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
The top states for reporting fraud and other issues (per 100,000 in population) were Florida, Georgia, and Nevada. The most identity theft reports (also per 100,000 in population) came from Georgia, Nevada, and California. See data about your state here.
More on the types of scams reported:
Imposter scams are when a caller falsely claims to be someone they aren’t. Many of the FTC complaints were of fraudsters falsely claiming to be from the Social Security Administration, according to the FTC. The callers typically tell people their Social Security number has been suspended or there is a similar problem. The goal is to get people to reveal their Social Security number or pay money to “reactivate” it.
“In reality, Social Security numbers are never suspended, and the Social Security Administration will never require you to pay to obtain one,” according to an FTC press release. If you receive such a call, the agency recommends that you hang up and report it at ftc.gov/complaint.
Debt collection complaints – when a caller attempts to collect a fraudulent debt – fell to second place after topping the FTC’s consumer complaint list for the past three years.
Imposter or debt collection scammers typically ask to be paid by wire transfer or credit card, but a growing number of consumers in 2018 report scammers asked to be paid with gift cards or reloadable cards. While wire transfers still topped the list of payment methods, with $423 million, the FTC said it saw a 95 percent increase in dollars paid to scammers with gift or reload cards.
Identity theft consistently ranks among the top consumer complaints to the FTC. While reports involving tax identity theft dropped by 38 percent in 2018, reports of credit card fraud on new accounts – when a fraudster opens a new credit card account with a stolen identity – increased by 24 percent. “Misusing someone’s information to open a new credit card account was reported more often than other forms of identity theft in 2018,” according to the FTC.
Consumers in their 20s were most likely to report losing money (43 percent), compared with people in their 70s (15 percent). However, the median amount lost was larger for older adults — $750, compared with $400 for those in their 20s.