The Federal Trade Commission has issued its latest report to Congress on protecting older adults, which highlights key trends based on fraud reports by older adults, and the FTC’s efforts to combat the problem through law enforcement actions, rulemaking, and outreach and education programs.
“Protecting older consumers from predatory practices is a top priority, and our report highlights the many steps we’ve been taking,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “We’ll continue to bring aggressive cases, engage in proactive outreach and research, and work closely with others, including in our new Advisory Group formed under the Stop Senior Scams Act.”
The report, Protecting Older Consumers, 2021-2022, A Report of the Federal Trade Commission, finds that in 2021 older adults reported significantly higher losses to investment scams, business impersonation scams and government impersonation scams than they did in 2020:
- Investment scams: $147 million reported lost, up 213 percent from 2020.
- Business impersonation scams: $151 million reported lost, up 134 percent from 2020.
- Government impersonation scams: $122 million reported lost, up 109 percent from 2020.
As in prior years, the analysis of fraud reports received by the FTC in 2021 showed that adults aged 60 and over were substantially less likely to report losing money to fraud than adults aged 20-59. When they did report losing money, though, they tended to report losing substantially more than younger adults. Consumers 80 and older reported losing a median of $1,500 to fraud, while those in their seventies reported a median loss of $800.
The analysis included in the report to Congress also found that adults 60 and older were nearly five times as likely as adults aged 20 to 59 to report losing money to a tech support scam. Older adults were more than twice as likely to report a loss to a prize, lottery or sweepstakes scam, and 45 percent more likely to report losing money to a friend or family impersonation scam.
The report’s analysis shows that older adults filed the largest number of reports about online frauds—where consumers are contacted via social media, the web, or online ads. The largest median losses, however, were reported by older adults on fraud that started with a phone call. Scams where older adults were contacted on social media are on the rise; reported losses from this type of scam more than doubled to $164 million between 2020 and 2021.
The report focuses on key actions the FTC has taken to protect older consumers. In 2021, the Commission began three rulemakings that are highlighted in the report: one on government and business impersonation, one on deceptive or unfair earnings claims, and one on revisions to the Telemarketing Sales Rule. The report notes that each of these areas have significant impact on older adults.
In addition, the report notes a number of enforcement actions that had a particular impact on older consumers, including cases against a money transfer provider, a payment plan used by an investment training scheme, and scammers making false health claims, including some related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report highlights a number of ongoing law enforcement partnerships in which the FTC works with other federal agencies, along with state and local authorities, to take actions to protect older consumers.
Finally, the report details the FTC’s outreach and education efforts through such programs as the Pass it On campaign, which focuses on providing fraud prevention resources to older adults so they can help protect their communities by sharing the information and materials with family and friends.
The Commission vote authorizing the report to Congress was 5-0.