Getting scammed is getting more expensive.
Consumers reported losing more money to fraud in 2017 than in 2016 — despite the total number of complaints about fraud dropping last year. They collectively lost about $905 million to fraudsters last year, which reflects an increase of $63 million in one year.
That’s according to the latest annual data from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which takes consumer complaints about fraudulent activity. The government agency logged nearly 2.7 million consumer complaints in 2017, down from some 3 million complaints in 2016.
The FTC sorts consumer reports of fraud into 30 categories. The top category last year was debt collection — as was the case in 2016, too. The FTC received more than 608,000 complaints about debt collection scams last year.
The top three types of complaints made last year were those about:
- Debt collection — about 23 percent of all complaints
- Identity theft — about 14 percent
- Impostor scams — 13 percent
No other category accounted for more than 6 percent of all complaints made last year.
Even if you’re unfamiliar with the label of “impostor scam,” you’re probably already familiar with this type of fraud. It entails a scammer posing as someone else.
For example, in recent weeks we’ve seen impostor scammers try to trick consumers into handing over money by pretending to be:
Impostor scams tend to be more lucrative for fraudsters, too. Among consumers who told the FTC they lost money in an impostor scam last year, the median loss was $500. That’s compared with a median loss of $429 across all types of scams.
Avoiding scams in 2018
Whatever type of fraud might concern you most, the best way to avoid it might be to simply be wary when the phone rings. The FTC found that by far the most common communication method that fraudsters use to contact potential victims is phone calls.
Of all the consumers complaints the FTC received last year that specified how the consumer was contacted, the phone was used 70 percent of the time. The second-most common method, email, was used only 10 percent of the time.
For more prevention pointers, check out Money Talks News’ founder Stacy Johnson’s words of wisdom in “10 Golden Rules to Avoid Getting Scammed.”
Have you ever been targeted by scammers? Tell us about your experience, and any wisdom you learned from it, below or on our Facebook page.