Data Spotlight Blog: FTC reporting back to you

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.