Skip to main content

The Federal Trade Commission has released the results of a comprehensive survey conducted in 2017 that examined the prevalence of mass-market consumer fraud, how it is perpetrated, and what factors are associated with a greater likelihood that a consumer may fall victim to fraud. The FTC conducted similar surveys in 2003, 2005, and 2011.

The survey results show that 15.9 percent of the respondents were victims of fraud in 2017, which represents approximately 40 million U.S. adults.

The most common types of fraud reported by the survey respondents were fraudulent weight-loss products, fraudulent computer repairs, and being falsely told that they owed money to the government. Other commonly reported types of fraud included unauthorized billing for buying club memberships, unauthorized billing for an item for a cell phone, and fraudulent prize promotions. The survey results indicate that each of these types of fraud had more than two million U.S. adult victims.

Internet transactions, which continue to grow, accounted for a substantial share of fraudulent incidents. According to the survey, 54 percent of all incidents of fraud involved Internet promotion of products and services, up from 33 percent in the 2011 survey.

The survey results indicate that consumers aged 35 to 54 were more likely to be victims of fraud compared to consumers in other age categories. According to the survey, 22 percent of respondents between 35 and 44, and 20 percent of respondents between 45 and 54, were victims of fraud. The survey also found that women were more likely to be fraud victims than men, with 19 percent of women reporting that they were victims of fraud, compared to 13 percent for men.

The survey results indicate that people who were more willing to take risks, and those who had recently experienced a negative life event (such as a severe illness or the death of a loved one), were more likely to have been fraud victims. Those experiencing high levels of debt and those who predicted that their incomes would rise substantially in the next few years were also more likely to have been fraud victims.

The Commission vote to release the survey results was 5-0.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

Contact Information

Jay Mayfield
Office of Public Affairs

Keith Anderson
Bureau of Economics