FTC Issues Annual Report to Congress on Protecting Older Adults

Report notes jump in online shopping fraud reports since start of COVID-19 pandemic

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The Federal Trade Commission has issued its latest report to Congress on protecting older adults, which highlights updated findings from the Commission’s fraud reports showing trends in how older adults report being affected by fraud.

The report, Protecting Older Consumers, 2020-2021, A Report of the Federal Trade Commission, also includes information on the FTC’s efforts to protect older consumers through law enforcement actions and outreach and education programs. This year’s report calls particular attention to the Commission’s work to combat scams related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reports of online shopping fraud increased sharply among adults aged 60 and higher in the second quarter of 2020 as online marketers failed to deliver masks and other scarce items needed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The most frequent type of fraud reported by older adults was online shopping scams. Overall, reports of losses to online shopping fraud by older adults more than doubled in 2020, and the numbers continued to be far higher than pre-pandemic levels in the first half of 2021.

As in prior years, the analysis of fraud reports received by the FTC in 2020 showed that adults aged 60 and higher are substantially less likely to report losing money to fraud than adults aged 20-59. When they do report losing money, though, they tend to report losing substantially more than younger adults. Consumers 80 and older reported losing a median of $1,300 to fraud, while those in their seventies reported a median loss of $650, and those in their sixties reported a median loss of $449.

The analysis included in the report to Congress also found that adults older than 60 were nearly five times as likely as adults aged 20 to 59 to report losing money to a tech support scam. Older adults were nearly three times more likely to report a loss to a prize, lottery or sweepstakes scam, and more than twice as likely to report losing money to a friend or family impersonator scam.

In addition, the report notes that older adults reported losing about $139 million to romance scams – the highest total reported loss of any scam category, and a sharp increase from $84 million in 2019.

The report also focuses on key enforcement actions the FTC has taken to protect older consumers, including against investment schemes, a credit card stacking operation, an indoor TV antenna scam, and numerous cases against scammers making false health claims, including many related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report highlights a number of ongoing law enforcement partnerships in which the FTC works with other federal agencies, along with state and local authorities, to take actions to protect older consumers.

Finally, the report details the FTC’s outreach and education efforts through such programs as the Pass it On campaign, which focuses on providing fraud prevention resources to older adults so they can help protect their communities by sharing the information and materials with family and friends.

The Commission vote authorizing the report to Congress was 4-0.

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