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Research and Statistics

The generation most likely to get scammed isn’t seniors, study shows

Data from the Federal Trade Commission show millennials fell victim to fraud at a higher rate than other generations in 2019


A new FTC report shows consumer fraud complaints increased by 13% in 2019, which is unsurprising. But what’s interesting is that the incidence of fraud isn’t highest among seniors. Instead, millennials are the most likely generation to be scammed out of their money.  

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The Federal Trade Commission’s latest annual figures are out on the number of consumer fraud reports it received in 2019. That the counts are up is probably unsurprising. But the consumers who are getting hit the most may not be as intuitive.

Through its Consumer Sentinel Network, the FTC received 1.7 million fraud complaints in 2019. That’s up more than 13% from the 1.5 million reported in 2018.

But the amount of money lost to fraud increased even more – up 18% over last year – meaning scammers are scoring more profit per successful fraud.

But not all generations are being victimized equally. The stereotypical target of frauds and scams is seniors. And it’s true that, as a group, they lose the most money per victim. Among those who reported fraud in 2019, those who were age 70-79 lost an average of $800 in the scam, while those age 80 or older lost double that ($1,600 on average).

But what’s interesting is that the incidence of fraud isn’t highest among seniors. Instead, millennials are the most likely generation to be scammed out of their money.

See related: Millennials aren’t as debt-saddled as you may think, survey shows

The rate of fraud among Americans age 30-39 was 82 fraud losses per 100,000 in population. Among the 80 and older set, fraud losses were half that, at 40 per 100,000 consumers, with those age 70-79 having the second-lowest incident rate at 61.

Yet, millennials’ losses from these successful frauds are the lowest of any age group, at a median loss of $384. That’s less than half of what the average 70-79-year old victim lost ($800), and less than a quarter of the median loss among victims age 80 and older ($1,600).

Other data collected by the FTC shows that about three-quarters of reported fraud attempts (74%) were made via telephone contact. And imposter scams, such as someone falsely claiming to be the government, a relative in distress, a well-known business or a technical support expert, were the largest category among reported frauds.

Throughout the year, the FTC takes in reports from consumers about problems they experience in the marketplace, storing the reports in a secure online database available only to law enforcement. Its latest annual report of the aggregated data was released Jan. 23.

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