Data Spotlight Blog: FTC reporting back to you

Data Spotlight

Amazon tops list of impersonated businesses

Scammers impersonate all sorts of businesses, but reports to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel point to Amazon as a runaway favorite for scammers. From July 2020 through June 2021, about one in three people who reported a business impersonator said the scammer claimed to be Amazon. Reports about Amazon impersonators increased more than fivefold during this period.1 About 96,000 people reported being targeted, and nearly 6,000 said they lost money. Reported losses totaled more than $27 million. The reported median individual loss: $1,000.

Cryptocurrency buzz drives record investment scam losses

Investing in cryptocurrency means taking on risks, but getting scammed shouldn’t be one of them. Reports to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel1 suggest scammers are cashing in on the buzz around cryptocurrency and luring people into bogus investment opportunities in record numbers. Since October 2020, reports have skyrocketed, with nearly 7,000 people reporting losses of more than $80 million on these scams.2 Their reported median loss? $1,900.

Romance scams take record dollars in 2020

They say love hurts. With romance scams that’s doubly true – hearts are broken and wallets are emptied. For three years running, people have reported losing more money on romance scams than on any other fraud type identified in Sentinel.1 In 2020, reported losses to romance scams reached a record $304 million, up about 50% from 2019. For an individual, that meant a median dollar loss of $2,500. From 2016 to 2020, reported total dollar losses increased more than fourfold, and the number of reports nearly tripled.2

Gift cards top scammers’ wish lists

Gift cards make great holiday gifts. But reports to FTC show that scammers like getting them, too. Scammers don’t ask nicely, though. They use trickery to insist on gift cards, and they ask for specific brands. Scammers prefer gift cards because they can get quick cash while staying anonymous. In fact, giving a scammer the PIN numbers off the back of a gift card is the number one way people report losing money on many of the top frauds reported to the FTC.

Income scams: big promises, big losses

When the job market is tough, scammers target people who are looking for work or trying to bring in extra income. Economic conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may have created ideal conditions for these scams to proliferate. In fact, the volume of reports to the FTC about income scams reached the highest levels on record in the second quarter of 2020.1

Scams starting on social media proliferate in early 2020

Social media can be a great way to connect with friends while the pandemic has you keeping your distance. But reports to FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network suggest that that social media websites and apps have become popular hangouts for scammers, too. Reports that people lost money to scams that started on social media1 more than tripled in the past year, with a sharp increase in the second quarter of 2020.

Pandemic purchases lead to record reports of unreceived goods

Online shopping has been a lifeline for many people hunkering down to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. But as online orders have increased, so too have reports to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network about sellers failing to deliver on promises — or just failing to deliver, period. During April and May of 2020, more people reported problems with online shopping than in any other months on record. More than half said they never got the items they ordered.1

Identity theft causing outsized harm to our troops

Our men and women in uniform take on unique hardships when they choose to serve. Identity theft shouldn’t be one of them. But the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network database shows that active duty servicemembers file reports about many forms of identity theft – and related problems with debt collection and credit reporting – at much higher rates than non-military consumers.

Don’t bank on a “cleared” check

Fake check scams take advantage of what we don’t know about how banks handle check deposits. Scammers do know, and they trick people into sending them money before the bank spots the fake. The FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network database shows that people reported more than 27,000 fake check scams in 2019, with reported losses topping $28 million dollars. And the data suggest that fake check scams disproportionately harm young adults – especially people in their twenties.

Not what you think: Millennials and fraud

Millennials are 25% more likely than people 40+ to report losing money to fraudPeople sometimes think scams mostly affect older adults, but reports to Consumer Sentinel tell a different story. People in their 20s and 30s, a cohort that roughly tracks the so-called Millennial generation, are 25% more likely to report losing money to fraud than people 40 and over generally, and much more likely to report a loss on certain types of fraud.

Government imposter scams top the list of reported frauds

Pretending to be someone people trust is what scammers do. They may claim to be a well-known company or a beloved family member, but data from the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network suggest that pretending to be the government may be scammers’ favorite ruse. Since 2014, the FTC has gotten nearly 1.3 million reports about government imposters. That’s far more than any other type of fraud reported in the same timeframe. This spring, monthly reports of government imposter scams reached the highest levels we have on record.1

Growing wave of Social Security imposters overtakes IRS scam

Claiming to be a government authority is a tried and true way that scammers trick people into sending money. Among the most common government imposters have been scammers pretending to be the IRS – until now. In the past few months, the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network database has seen Social Security Administration (SSA) imposter reports skyrocket while reports of IRS imposters have declined sharply. In the shady world of government imposters, the SSA scam may be the new IRS scam.

Older adults hardest hit by tech support scams

If the mere thought of your computer being hacked frightens you, you’re not alone. And tech support scammers know how to exploit that fear to their own advantage. They work to scare you into believing your computer is compromised and then offer to “fix” the problem – for a fee. The FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network got nearly 143,000 reports about tech support scams in 2018.1

Romance scams rank number one on total reported losses

People looking for romance are hoping to be swept off their feet, not caught up in a scam. But tens of thousands of reports in Consumer Sentinel show that a scam is what many people find. In 2018, Sentinel had more than 21,000 reports about romance scams, and people reported losing a total of $143 million – that’s more than any other consumer fraud type identified in Sentinel.1 These reports are rising steadily. In 2015, by comparison, people filed 8,500 Sentinel reports with dollar losses of $33 million.

Scammers increasingly demand payment by gift card

Through Consumer Sentinel we hear from people across the country about frauds they encounter in the marketplace. One thing we learn from these reports is how scammers want to be paid. People are telling us that they’re increasingly being told to pay with gift cards – specifically, by giving someone the PIN number off the back of a gift card. Often people are specifically asked for certain brands, like iTunes and Google Play cards.