Senior citizens especially at risk
Last month, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) hosted an online “Tell-Tale Signs of a Scam–How They Ask You to Pay” briefing. It was the third such briefing over the past few years discussing the latest trends in scams, recovering lost money, and pinpointing different ways that scammers request payment.
Of the most alarming statistics, the FTC stated that in just the first six months of 2023, 1.1 million reports of fraud were documented along with $4.4 billion lost. Most of the money lost was untraceable and unrecoverable. The briefing offered an opportunity for attendees to share their personal experiences with scam trends and advice on how to avoid being swindled.
The large number of dollars lost to victims of scams are by scammers who take the money easily, and leave little to no evidence. Although it is possible to recover lost money, it is highly unlikely and challenging. Social media is where the highest amount of scams occur, a reported $658 million was lost with scam phone calls being a close second, rounding out with a median of $1,400 lost.
Scam losses reported by payment method include $901 million lost in bank transfer or payment, $164 million in wire transfer, $123 million in credit cards, $109 million in gift cards, $106 million in debit cards, and $102 million in payment apps. The leading payment sources of scams are gift cards, Apple and Google financial transactions.
Consumer Sentinel reports show that scammers tend to prefer payments via different methods such as imposter scams, prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries, investment-related scams, and business opportunity scams. Only scammers will advise or require people to pay with wire transfers, cryptocurrency, or gift cards.
Gift cards are commonly used by scammers. For instance, the innocent party may receive a phone call stating they’ve won a prize but must pay a $100 fee to receive the prize. Sometimes they are required to purchase a gift card. It is advised that you contact the company where the gift card comes from.
Cryptocurrency entices people to join thinking they'll get rich quickly but in reality people are paying up to $10,000 in 48 hours to join, while the scammer deposits the money into their digital wallet. Cryptocurrency is a major hotspot for scammers. Sophia Siddiqui, a representative with the FTC, said, “Only scammers will guarantee that you will make a lot of money or promise big returns with no risk. There’s nothing low-risk about cryptocurrency investments.”
Some tips for preventing and or looking out for scams include paying for everything with a credit card, as credit cards are protected under federal law. Other tips include keeping your receipt for the gift card you’ve purchased, setting up blocks and locks on your phone to prevent scam calls, and contacting the company that issued the gift card. Lastly, you can report fraud to ftc.gov/giftcards.