Consumer Fraud in the United States, 2011: The Third FTC Survey

Authors:
Keith B. Anderson

This study reports the results of the Federal Trade Commission’s third statistical survey of fraud in the United States. The survey found that 10.8 percent of adults in the United States – an estimated 25.6 million people -- were victims of one or more of the frauds included in the survey during 2011. More people – an estimated 5.1 million U.S. consumers – were victims of fraudulent weight-loss products than of any of the other frauds covered by the survey. Fraudulent prize promotions were the second most frequently reported of the frauds covered by the survey, with an estimated 2.4 million victims during 2011. Unauthorized billing for buyers’ club memberships and unauthorized billing for Internet services tied for third place, while fraudulent work-at-home programs ranked fifth among the frauds covered by the survey.

The survey also found that consumers who were more willing to take risks and those who had experienced a serious negative life event in the past two years – events such as a divorce, the death of a family member or close friend, a serious injury or illness in the family, of the loss of a job – were more likely to have become victims. Those who were more patient were less likely to have been victims. African Americans and Hispanics were more likely to have been victims than were non-Hispanic whites, while older consumers were less likely to have been victims of the frauds included in the survey.