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American consumers lost more than $5.8B to fraud in 2021

The Hill logo The Hill 2/22/2022 Shirin Ali | Feb. 22, 2022
American consumers lost more than $5.8B to fraud in 2021 © Poike/ iStock American consumers lost more than $5.8B to fraud in 2021

From identify theft to imposter scams, a record amount of fraud reports were filed by American consumers in 2021, resulting in $5.9 billion lost to fraud.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published new data on Tuesday and announced that the agency received fraud reports from more than 2.8 million consumers last year, with the most commonly reported category being imposter scams, followed by online shopping scams.

Other areas like prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries; along with internet services, business and job opportunities rounded out the top five fraud categories.

More than $5.8 billion was lost to fraud in 2021, an increase of more than 70 percent over 2020. Imposter scams accounted for more than $2.3 billion, up from $1.2 billion in 2020, while online shopping accounted for about $392 million in reported losses, up from $246 million in 2020.

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The FTC also found that younger people reported losing money to fraud more often than older people, with 41 percent of people ages 20-29 compared to only 18 percent of those ages 70-79.

However, when people over the age of 70 did report money lost to fraud, their median loss was much higher. People between the ages of 70-79 reported a median loss of $800, while those 80 years old and up reported a median loss of $1,500.

Younger people between the ages of 20-29 reported a median loss of $500.


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When it came to identify theft, there were nearly 1.4 million reports received by the FTC. Reports of fraudulent checking/savings accounts grew by 64 percent in 2021, while new fraudulent mobile telephone accounts dropped by 22 percent.

Fraud seemed especially prevalent during the coronavirus pandemic, as one Florida man fraudulently collected more than $1 million in relief funds, while another woman in Georgia fraudulently collected $6 million in federal paycheck protection plan loans. Another man in California was charged with committing fraud to obtain more than $1 million in unemployment benefits for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FTC says there are four signs Americans can look out for that signal a scam, the first being scammers pretending to be contacting you on behalf of the government, like the Social Security Administration, the Internal Revenue Service or Medicare.

Some scammers also might say you're in trouble with the government by saying money is owed or that someone in your family has had an emergency.

Scammers also tend to pressure consumers, wanting you to act before you have time to think it through, while also requesting that money be sent through a money transfer company or through a gift card.

The FTC emphasizes not to give out personal or financial information in response to a request you didn't expect, as legitimate organizations don't call, email or text for sensitive information.

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