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Scams and older consumers: Looking at the data

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The FTC just sent a report to Congress called Protecting Older Consumers 2018-2019. The report suggests steps to take to help protect older consumers from fraud. But the evidence also shows a thing or two everyone else can learn from them. Check out the sometimes surprising findings in this year’s report.

Older adults were the least likely of any age group to report losing money to scams. The overwhelming majority of fraud reports filed with the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network by people 60+ didn’t indicate any monetary loss. What’s more, consumers in that age group spotted fraud and reported it before losing any money at nearly twice the rate of people between 20 and 59.

What that tells us. Even if they were able to spot scams before losing money, older consumers have heeded the law enforcement call to report fraud. Consumers of all ages can follow their example by reporting their scam stories at ftc.gov/complaint.

But when older consumers experience consumer fraud, their reported financial losses were greater than what younger consumers reported. Compared to 2017 numbers, reported median losses among consumers 60 and over increased, and the increase was particularly large for people 80+.

What that tells us. In addition to ongoing FTC law enforcement, sharing information with older consumers about scams is still very important. Exposed to Scams: What Separates Victims from Non-Victims?, a report from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust, and the Stanford Center on Longevity, suggests that people are much less likely to lose money on a scam they encounter if they’ve heard about it before. So spread the word about scams you hear about in the news or from the FTC.

Even though older consumers are less likely to report losing money to scams, certain scams are more likely to strike them. For example, older adults were more likely than younger consumers to report losing money on tech support scams, prize, sweepstakes & lottery scams, and family & friend impersonation. Phone scams did the most financial damage. And while gift cards became the payment of choice for scammers, wire transfers still take the top spot for total dollars paid.

What that tells us. Rather than general reminders to “be careful,” offer older consumers targeted tips about tech support scams, bogus prize promotions, and scammers who impersonate family and friends. In addition, talk to older friends and family about specific strategies for reducing the number of unwanted calls and spotting when a phone fraudster is on the line. And tell older consumers within your circle that if anyone contacts them and insists on payment by a wire transfer or gift card, it’s a scam.

Protecting Older Consumers 2018-2019: A Report of the Federal Trade Commission includes details about the cases the FTC has brought to protect older consumers and includes links to new topics in Pass It On, an FTC resource you can use to help educate family and friends about fraud.
 

Comments

Since May 2017 when an Private Investigator discovered my bank account at Wells Fargo had been robbed of My Social Security and Pension income. When I discovered Wells Fargo refused to refund my Stolen Income, I challenged WF and over the next 6 months they stole more of my income and also by Criminal Activity drove my Credit Rating from 788 down to 522 by manipulation, and when I challenged them by email they offered me $200!! The Loss and Damage and Destruction of Me Personally I evaluate at Minimum $200,000!! I Cannot Afford an Attorney due to this Crime of Theft of an 84 YOA Retiree??

Thank you so much for your wonderful efforts to stop this egregious behavior. Shamefully, I have fallen into this trap and contacted you. I learned my lesson the hard way and am hyper-vigilant against anyone. This is unfortunate that society has fallen to this; it is not the world of trust that many of us were raised in.

this also tells me that older folks are targeted b.c scammers think they have more money. Not the case as we know, but seems most are from other countries. If they find a manner to block computer generated calls from getting thru, we would help solve this issue. ESPECIALLY for landlines, the preferred method of phones for us analog brains. (I had to have cell phone on for work and refuse to own one in retirement.)

I have been hit twice. I am 82 and both times they wanted me to mail them CASH thru the post office. I was a bit smarter than that.

Older consumers are targeted often because they have money and some suffer from diminished capacity and more vulnerable.

I have gotten several phone messages recently telling me my social security number has been suspended and I needed to call "Linda" at the inspector general's office.

I know it was a scam because social security would send a letter if there was a problem, and not phone. There is no inspector general for social security. And lastly, why would they use a robo call with someone's name?

I was only 50 years old when I was scammed by paying with a gift card for a $15 online purchase. I consider it a huge lesson with a small price tag! Right away, I reported the transaction to the FTC and the legit website, where I bought the gift card.

I just gave up my land line, which I prefer to use , because I got 5 scams a day and some times from the same scam supposedly from,medicare. soc.sec. saying my benefits are going stop so please push number 3 and talk to someone about it. I would call my medicare, soc. sec. , bank what every they would say who they are calling for an each would say it's a scam don't respond, but scammers are just calling all day long. Why can't the phone companies stop robocalls , as their numbers are on google when i also check it out with them and they say it a scammer.

As an older consumer, I have developed a healthy paranoria.

Rule 1 - I never do business over the phone.
Rule 2 - If someone calls me from a company I am doing business with, I ask what it is about, then call the company back. Just had that happen to me to someone claiming to be from Dish Network.
Rule - 3 I never take any action based on an e-mail I received without calling the entity that the e-mail supposedly was sent from.
Rule - 4 The IRS and SSA, and Medicare do not ever contact you by e-mail or phone period.
Rule 5 - If any of the above entities contact you by sending a letter, call them to make sure the letter is legitimate. As a tax pro I have seen some bogus letters.

These 5 rules should be engraved on every land line phone and on the back of each cell phone!!!Thank you billdtm

I am 68 years old and wonder how these scammers know who is old and retired and who is not. What magic list do they have?

Don't answer the phone! Lots of older adults think they have to answer the phone every time it rings. If you don't recognize the number/place, don't answer. I get 2-5 of these scam calls a day, too, but they can't scam me if I don't talk to them!

These scammers are so smart. They probably the same guy's that hi-jacked my PC in 2017 while I was working on it. Pretending to be Microsoft, it cost me $300 plus to get them out. Then this year, they said "they were reimbursing" me from when they worked on my PC in 2017!! I'd read where the FTC had actually got some of these crooks to pay back the $$ they'd scammed. So I thought, yippee... only to find out that it was another scam!! They even tried extortion as if destroying the data on my hard drive wasn't enough! I'm more cautious now when I get calls. Thank you FTC for all the alerts, at a young 72, being informed is being prepared!

I have discovered a very satisfying way to trick scammers: My outgoing voicemail message is me saying "Hello, hello?" Many scammers mistake it for a "live" person, and they go into their spiel until they realize no one is listening to them. Ha!

Several comments reflect a mistaken belief that scam callers are targeting older people. Trust me, everyone is getting these calls! The issue is whether older adults are more vulnerable, and how to address that.
I work with elders, and several were scammed by someone who said they were calling from Marriott or American Express, etc. They thought it must be legit because the caller "knew" they had such an account. I get those same calls although I don't have either type of account.
I appreciate knowing that our efforts to keep our clients updated on the latest variations of these scams are worth it.

Thank you for keeping us informed. Reporting the many scam calls I've gotten seems to have helped. I no longer get 5 to 6 calls per day. Seems to be maybe one per day or none! So happy! I also don't answer if I don't recognize a number. If it's for me, they should leave a message. They're giving up on me answering. If you don't answer, they can't scam you! ;)

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