The population of the U.S. grew by 11 percent from 2011 to 2017. The number of adults victimized by a mass-market consumer fraud during the same time period increased 56 percent.
The FTC does a periodic survey of the incidence of consumer fraud in the U.S. Its latest study found that 40 million people, representing almost 16 percent of adults, were victims of fraud in 2017. There were almost 62 million incidences of fraud, meaning that many victims fell for more than one scam.
The FTC asks if consumers were the victim of certain types of fraud rather than asking if they were a victim of fraud in general. The types of fraud it asks about include those generating the most complaints to its Consumer Sentinel complaint system or that have been the subject of concerted FTC enforcement actions. The BBB contributes complaint data to the Sentinel system. Most of the complaint types were included in the FTC’s three earlier surveys dating back to 2003.
The most common type of fraud was Fraudulent Weight-Loss Products, which victimized 6.5 million U.S. adults, many more than once. Fraudulent products included nonprescription drugs, dietary supplements, patches, creams, wraps – and even earrings. They were promoted as making it easy for consumers to lose a substantial amount of weight without diet or exercise and were considered fraudulent if consumers lost less than half the weight they expected to lose.
The second most common type of scam was Fraudulent Computer Repair, which the BBB calls the “tech support” scam. There were 5 million victims who paid money to fix non-existent problems and/or gave crooks remote access to their computers. A common variation of the scam involves the consumer getting a call from someone claiming to be with Microsoft, Dell, or some other company who says they’ve detected a problem with the consumer’s computer.
Third on the list were Being Falsely Told That You Owed Money to the Government scams, which the BBB calls “government impostor” scams. An estimated 3.4 million adults reported paying money after being called by, for example, someone claiming to be with the IRS collecting back taxes or with a court demanding the consumer pay a fine to avoid being arrested.
Other types of fraud included in the survey that I’ve warned about in columns include sweepstakes and lottery scams, phony business opportunities, bogus credit repair offers, pyramid schemes and phony job offers.
The Internet was the most common way victims were exposed to a fraudulent offer. Over half the people in the FTC survey learned about the fraudulent product or service on a website, on social media or through an email. Exposure via the Internet, excluding social media and email, has increased from 16 percent in 2005 to 23 percent in 2011 to just under 40 percent in the latest survey.
People 35 to 54 were more likely to be victimized than other age groups and women were victims more often than men. Other groups with higher rates of victimization included people who were more prone to taking risks, such as making purchases in response to an unsolicited email; had experienced a divorce, death of a family member or other negative life event; or were under financial stress.
Randy Hutchinson is the president of the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South. Reach him at 901-757-8607.
Read or Share this story: https://www.jacksonsun.com/story/news/2020/07/02/increase-scam-victims-outstrips-population-growth/5366123002/