Millennials Have Lost More Money to Scams Than the Elderly

7. March 2018.

Forget the cliché of the vulnerable senior citizen falling victim to scammers — a larger share of young people reported that they lost money to fraud than older individuals did in 2017.

Among consumers ages 20 to 29, 40 percent of those who made fraud complaints to the Federal Trade Commission lost money, compared with just 18 percent of those who were ages 70 and older, according to an annual report from the federal agency released Thursday.

The report examined consumer complaints made to the FTC in 2017. Roughly 2.68 million consumers complained to the Federal Trade Commission about fraud in 2017, down from 2.98 million people the year prior. The largest share of complaints overall came from people between the ages of 60 and 69 — this group represented 19 percent of the reports the FTC received last year.

Who are fraud victims?

Research has shown that younger consumers might actually be more vulnerable to scams. Although the popular image of a fraud victim is someone who’s less educated or older, in fact the opposite is often true. People between the ages of 25 and 34 were the most likely to lose money to fraud, according to a 2016 study from the Better Business Bureau. And more than half of those who suffered a fraud-related financial loss had a college degree.

Riskier online behavior

Part of the problem, especially where young people are concerned, is the so-called “optimism bias”: Young people assume that others are at a higher risk of fraud, so they take more risks online. Other research has shown young people are more inclined to share personal information online such as their e-mail address or mother’s maiden name than older generations.

Plus, younger consumers may be less familiar with what a scam looks like, said Monica Vaca, associate director of the FTC’s Division of Consumer Response and Operations. “Older consumers are doing a really good job recognizing fraud when they encounter it,” Vaca said. “They’re taking the next step to warn other people about it.”

Seniors pay more when they’re duped

While younger people might be more likely to be duped, older individuals will suffer a greater loss when they are defrauded.

The median loss for people between the ages of 70 and 79 was $621, versus just $400 for those ages 20 to 29, according to the FTC. This could be a virtue of the financial situations for these different groups of consumers, Vaca said. “It’s possible that some older consumers have a little bit more money to lose,” Vaca said. “It might also be that con artists when they get someone on the phone might assume they have more money to lose.”

Indeed, the financial impact from fraud on seniors may go far beyond what is reported to the FTC. Some researchers believe as much as $3 billion is stolen annually from seniors by fraudsters, according to Consumer Reports.

Overall, consumers lost more to fraud in 2017

Fewer consumers reported fraud in 2017 — but those who did lost more money. Altogether, consumers lost $905 million to fraud last year — a 7 percent increase from 2016. But those losses were highly concentrated, as only 21 percent of consumers who made a complaint to the FTC reported a loss.

The median loss a consumer suffered was $429. Travel and vacation scams tended to be the most costly, with a median loss of $1,710. Other costly fraud categories last year included mortgage foreclosure relief and business and job opportunity scams.

Thankfully for consumers, these forms of fraud were not the most common. That dubious distinction goes to scams involving debt collection (23 percent of all reports), identity theft (14 percent) and imposter scams (13 percent).

Credit card fraud was the most common form of identity theft, constituting more than 133,000 reports, followed by employment or tax-related fraud.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Register New Account
Login to
Reset Password