Americans age 60 and older were five times more likely to fall victim to tech-support scams last year than younger adults, a new report says.
Other fraud schemes also hit the 60-plus demographic hard. They were three times more likely than adults ages 20 to 59 to be conned by impostors posing as friends or relatives. And older folks were more than twice as likely to fall for a prize, sweepstakes or lottery scam.
The alarming trends are in a report called "Protecting Older Consumers 2018-2019," issued Wednesday by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is charged with protecting consumers from unfair, deceptive or fraudulent practices.
That caller could be a fraudster
In the vast majority of cases, adults age 60-plus who reported fraud in 2018 said the bad actors first reached out in a phone call.
Far less often the initial contact came through social media or an online pop-up notice; in an email; in a mailing; or after the consumer-initiated communication (by shopping online, for example).
Last year, older adults were the least likely of any age group to report losing money to fraud, the report says. Sometimes they stopped crooks in their tracks. But when bad actors were successful, they stole more from older adults, who were especially vulnerable to certain kinds of scams, including bogus tech-support.
"Unfortunately, in numerous FTC cases, older adults have been targeted or disproportionately affected by fraud,” the report states.
For victims of all ages, imposter scams were the No. 1 complaint reported to the agency in 2018. Con artists will often pretend to be with the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration, or even the FTC, according to the report, which notes that the fake FTC employees typically concoct a bogus story, telling people they've won a prize, money or a grant but insisting that the money won't be handed over until a fee is paid.
During the year ending June 30, 2019, more than 100 people age 60-plus reported they had lost more than $1,000 apiece to FTC impersonators. In many cases the perpetrators contacted the victims daily, “building relationships and creating trust."
Robbed of money and peace of mind
The economic impact of losing large sums of money ranged from “difficult” to “devastating,” according to the report, which said victims felt shame and embarrassment at being scammed: “Many reported feeling a loss to their self-image as competent people with a lifetime of experience that would help them avoid being fooled.” And some victims took their losses as “proof that they were now too old to be handling their own money."