Senior scam statistics

Statistics reveal more people are falling victim to online scams. One demographic particularly affected by this issue is the elderly. Older homeowners with healthy financial savings, decent credit scores – and a trusting nature – often find themselves targeted by scammers. Scammers mimic communications from romantic partners, tech support staff, government employees, bank staff, etc.

To keep you informed and help educate you about how best to protect yourself, we’ve compiled the latest senior scam statistics:

1. Fraud and identity theft reports decreased slightly from 2021 to 2022

Each year, the FTC publishes its Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book.  This is a useful resource that compiles various fraud statistics from a database that is usually only to law enforcement.

In 2001, the first year of reporting, there were 325,000 reports. By 2019, this number had risen to 3.24 million. Since then the biggest one-year increase happened between 2019 and 2020 when the number of fraud reports rose to 4.7 million (a staggering 47% increase).

Between 2020 and 2021 that number went up even further to 5,964,830. However, in 2022 fraud statistics appear to have momentarily plateaued with the number dropping slightly to 5,150,368.


2. Seniors lost more than $3 billion in 2020 to financial scams

The FBI estimates that senior citizens lose more than $3 billion each year to financial scams including romance scams and lottery and sweepstakes scams. This is backed up by the CSN Data Book 2020 which states that people reported losses of more than $3.3 billion to fraud in 2020 — an increase of nearly $1.5 billion over 2019. As the world’s population continues to age, this number is only likely to rise.

3. Fraud and identity theft make up the most common report types

Identity Theft

The FTC’s most recent report from 2022-23 shows fraud (46%) and identity theft (21.5%) make up the majority of reports received.

When it comes to fraud, imposter scams are the most common report type with 725,989 in total. These totaled losses of $2,667M with a median loss of $1000. Credit card fraud was the most common type of identity theft in 2022 with more than 441,822 reported cases.

4. Senior citizens are less likely to report losing money to fraud

According to the FBI’s 2022 report, senior citizens are less likely to report fraud. FTC figures state 43% of younger people aged 20–29 reported losing money to fraud, and only 23% of older people ages 70–79 did the same.

The FBI speculates this may be due to a lack of understanding of the reporting process. It goes on to suggest that shame and fear of losing financial independence may also be at play.

The number of 70-79-year-olds who reported losing money went up slightly from 20% to 23% between 2020 and 2023. Continued efforts to educate elderly people should help to both decrease losses and increase reporting among the elderly.

5. The median loss is much higher for ages 70 and over

While the number of fraud cases decreased among older age groups, the median loss amount trended in the other direction. Those aged 20–29 lost an average of $548 in 2022. For 60–69 year-olds, this number rose to $666, while ages 70-79 suffered a median loss of $1000. However, it was ages 80 and upwards that were the worst affected. In this case, the median loss was $1,674. (See image in section 4).

6. Credit card fraud is the most common identity theft type for ages 60 and over

The most common identity theft type for persons aged 60 and over was credit card fraud. This percentage was highest among those aged 60–69 (46%). It was also the most common fraud type for 70–79-year-olds and 80 and over. The second most prolific ID theft type for over 60s was bank fraud.

7. Older adults are six times more likely to report losing money on a tech support scam

Despite being less likely to report fraud overall, the FTC’s Protecting Older Consumers report (2019–2020) found that adults over 60 are more likely to report financial losses to certain types of frauds.

In particular, older adults are nearly six times more likely (474%) than younger consumers to report losing money due to a tech support scam. They’re also three times more likely to report losses on prize, sweepstakes, or lottery scams.

8. Investment scams are the most common way senior citizens lose money

In 2022, the FTC’s Protecting Older Consumers report revealed that the most common types of fraud among the elderly are investment scams, business imposters, and romance scams.

The losses from investment scams rose 175% from the previous year and resulted in losses of $404 million.

9. Romance scams result in heavy losses for over 60s

For those aged 60 and over, Romance scams rose 13 percent between 2021 and 2022. This type of scam uses the promise of romance to lure victims. It incurred losses of $240 million during that period. In 2020, aggregate losses for over 60s totaled $84 million from romance scams.

10. Older adults report that scammers most commonly contact them over the phone

Phone Scams

The FTC reported that the phone was the top fraud contact method reported by the elderly, with 16,000 reports. The second most common was online, with 10,000 reports. Older adults reported significantly higher losses and higher median individual losses ($1,500) on phone scams than younger consumers. This was particularly the case for those aged 80 and over which reported median individual losses of $3,500 from phone scams — four times of those reported by adults aged 20-59.

11. Online contact methods are increasingly used to defraud the elderly

The latest FTC report reveals that most scams originate online. However, attacks that fraudsters initiated via phone calls resulted in the greatest median losses. Seniors over 60 lost a staggering $564 million due to fraud initiated via social media, websites, online ads, pop-ups, or other internet-based scams.

12. Gift cards have become the payment method of choice for scammers

The FTC’s latest report reveals that older adults most often reported paying fraudsters by credit card (25%) or with gift cards and reload cards (23%).

These payment types, particularly the use of gift cards, have shown a steady increase since 2020. While credit card payments and gift cards were the most commonly reported payment type, bank transfers resulted in greater losses for those affected.

13. Most older consumers who filed reports avoided losing money

The pattern in Sentinel fraud reports in recent years has been that the majority of consumers age 60 or older who filed reports didn’t indicate any monetary loss. Statistics show that older adults are 64% more likely to file a no-loss fraud report than consumers aged between 20 and 59.

14. California was the most affected state with 11,517 over 60 victims

According to the FBI’s Elder Fraud Report 2022, California had more victims over the age of 60 than any other state. Overall, 11,517 complaints came from The Golden State. The second and third highest were Florida and Texas at 8,480 and 6,674 respectively.

The losses from fraud in California resulted in over 60s losing more than $624 million. That is a significant increase over the 2020 report, which indicated losses of $152 million for Californian seniors.

FAQs about senior scams:

What are senior scams?

Senior scams are fraudulent schemes that target older adults through the use of the internet. These scams can take many forms, but all share the goal of defrauding the victim of their money.

One of the most common senior scams is the so-called ” Nigerian Prince” scam. In this scheme, the scammer poses as a wealthy Nigerian royal and promises to send the victim a large sum of money if they will help him transfer funds out of the country. But, of course, the victim never receives any money and is instead left out of pocket.

What are some common types of online scams targeting seniors?

Some common types of online scams that target seniors include:

  • Phishing scams involve fraudulent emails or websites that appear to be from a legitimate source, such as a bank or financial institution. The aim is to trick the victim into disclosing personal or financial information, such as credit card numbers or login credentials.
  • Fake online stores are set up to sell nonexistent or low-quality products. In addition, scammers may use false advertising and fake customer testimonials to lure victims into making a purchase.
  • Investment scams convince victims to invest money in a fraudulent business venture or scheme. The scammers may promise high returns with little or no risk. They may also use false testimonials from fake “satisfied” customers.
  • Lottery scams target victims with emails or letters claiming they have won a lottery or contest. The scammers may request personal information from the victim, such as their bank account number, in order to collect the “winnings.”
  • Charity scams involve fake charities that solicit donations from unsuspecting donors. The scammers may use emotional appeals or false claims of affiliation with legitimate organizations to trick victims into giving money.

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