Most Americans — including 81% of those ages 50 and older — believe scams and fraud have reached a crisis level.
That’s according to results from a recent survey of 1,000 adults conducted for AARP. About half of respondents (49%) believe that older adults are victimized by scams more often than younger adults. Yet, 43% of adults 20–29 have lost money to fraud, compared to 23% of those ages 70–79. Still, when they are victims, older adults often suffer higher financial losses.
While nearly nine in 10 respondents (87%) feel people should report incidents of fraud, only an estimated 15% contact law enforcement. The gap may be tied to attitudes and awareness about fraud. Sometimes those who have been victimized by a scam feel embarrassed, guilty, or believe there is nothing police can do.
About 85% of Americans say fraud can happen to anyone, but 53% see victims as culpable. More than one-third of adults think that victims lose money to scams because they are gullible, the findings revealed.
Criminals often use social media to lure people into scams. About 79% of survey respondents indicate they are aware of the risks in buying products and services in response to social media ads. Yet, according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, more than one in five people who reported losing money to fraud in 2022 said it started with a social media ad, post, or message.
Requests to purchase gift cards should also be red flags for consumers. No legitimate company will ever ask for payments to be made by purchasing a gift card and sharing the numbers off the back of it. About 75% of Americans surveyed know being asked to make a payment or send money with a gift card is a sure sign of a scam.
One area where awareness may be lacking is peer-to-peer payment apps such as Venmo or Zelle, which don’t provide the same level of fraud protection as credit cards. AARP discovered 63% of adults are not aware of this distinction and their inability to recover funds transferred to criminals via these platforms. Another 33% polled don’t know that being told to send money by converting it to cryptocurrency at a crypto ATM is a scam.
Findings came from an online and telephone survey in late February and early March 2023 of 500 adults ages 18–49 and 500 adults ages 50-plus. The sample was weighted to be representative by education, gender, race/ethnicity, and geography.