New Report Says Young Adults More Susceptible to Financial Scams than Seniors

By Jessica Easto
Inside Subprime: November 22

Historically, many studies have shown that senior citizens are targeted by financial scammers and at the highest risk to lose money from such scams. But according to a new report from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), young adults were 20 percent more likely to report losing money to fraud than those 60 years and older — they just didn’t lose as much.

The report found that although older adults reported losing money to fraud less, seniors aged 80 years or older lost more money on average when they did report a costly scam. The median individual loss in that age group was $1,700, a figure four times higher than their 20- and 30-something counterparts. This was an increase compared to 2017 figures.

According to the report, these figures suggest “that older adults may be more likely to avoid losing money when exposed to fraud, more inclined to report fraud when no loss has occurred, or a combination of these or other factors.” 

Among the most common types of fraud reported by older adults were losing money on tech support scams; prize, sweepstakes, and lottery scams; and family and friend impersonation scams. Older adults were caught up in tech support scams the most of any scam, and were 371 percent more likely to report losing money to this scam than their younger counterparts. Total reported losses by seniors from this scam in 2018 was almost $21 million, according to FTC findings.

Fraudsters most frequently use the phone to scam seniors.

“This high rate of phone fraud reporting was driven largely by reported calls from government impostors, particularly Social Security Administration impostors,” the FTC report said. “In numerous instances, the scammers contacted the consumers daily, building relationships and creating trust. Frequently, large money losses occurred through multiple contacts over the course of weeks or months.”

On the other hand, older adults were 64 percent less likely to report fraud from online shopping, the most frequently reported scam by those aged 20 to 59. 

The FTC tracks and analyzes consumer data via what’s called its Consumer Sentinel Network. According to the report, “Sentinel is an online database that provides federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies with secure access to consumer reports on a wide variety of fraud-related topics.”

Last year, the FTC made consumer reporting data more accessible by publishing Sentinel data each quarter online via its Explore Data interactive tool. According to the report, the tool “provides a more timely snapshot of what consumers are reporting and empowers users to explore data by fraud type.”

For more information on scams, predatory lenders and payday loans, see our city and state financial guides including states and cities like California, Texas, Illinois and more.