Technology and tough times are conspiring to give con artists tools to rake in a record haul through fraud.

Reports the Associated Press, “In 2022, reported consumer losses to fraud totaled $8.8 billion — a 30% increase from 2021, according to the most recent data from the Federal Trade Commission. The biggest losses were to investment scams, including cryptocurrency schemes, which cost people more than $3.8 billion, double the amount in 2021.”

Young adults were more often defrauded, but the dollar amount per target was bigger among older adults.

Chances are, if you have a nickel, there’s someone out there who wants it.

The top scam in terms of numbers, though not necessarily the money lost, is online shopping. You see a deal, order it and then don’t get it or the merchandise is completely inferior. And — bonus for the bad guy — the creep now has your payment information, too.

There are a lot of ways that people can be scammed, from identity theft to “you won” scams and health insurance fraud. Older people may be told they need a new Medicare card, for example. There are home repair scams, investment scams — including a lot of bogus cryptocurrency activity — job and money-making scams and charity fraud.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, impersonator scams offer a big payout — to the people doing them. Someone woos you online, then needs money as part of a romance scam. Someone calls and pretends to be a grandchild who’s gotten in trouble and needs help. A caller may claim — bogusly — to be from tech support or the government or a respected business.

What the scams have in common is they’re perpetrated by liars.

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There are other scams, by the way, that don’t directly take your money. For instance, Fox News recently reported on the increasingly common “brushing” scam, where online merchants send you merchandise you didn’t order — and sometimes even an empty box — so they can use the tracking number to prove you bought the item when they post fake reviews to boost sales.

The problem is, someone has accessed your personal information. If unopened, mark return to sender, Fox’s Kurt the Cyberguy says. Don’t pay for it. Report it to the merchant. And don’t just assume it’s no big deal.

A scam for the ages

Here’s a breakdown of fraud by age for 2022, using Federal Trade Commission data:

  • For folks ages 20-29, the average loss is $548 and 157 people per 100,000 population in that age range get ripped off. The top losses reported come from online shopping, followed by business imposters, various investments and investment advice schemes, job scams and government imposters. The money is most often taken by payment app or service and the contact is typically over social media.
  • For those 30-39, the average loss is $590 and 176 per 100,000 folks get scammed. Again, the contact method is social media, but the top payment method is credit cards. And the types of scam change slightly. Online shopping is most common, followed by miscellaneous investments and investment advice, business and then government imposters and finally romance scams.
  • Those 40-49 lose about $600 and nearly 157 of them per 100,000 are victimized, most often through websites or apps, the payment method credit cards. And in this case, while online shopping, investments and business imposters are the top three types of fraud, romance scams passes government imposters.
  • Those 50-59 — about 127 per 100,000 — lose an average of $559, most often tricked on websites or apps, the payment credit cards. They fall to online shopping, business imposters, various investment scams, romance scams and government imposters, in that order.
  • At ages 60-69, there’s a little more money lost, at $675, at a rate of 134 scammed per 100,000. But the mix is different, with online shopping still No. 1, followed by business imposters, government imposters, then tech support scams and various types of investment fraud. Contact again is most common over websites or apps and credit cards are the preferred payment method.
  • At age 70, the amount picks up with an average loss of $1,000 and close to 133 victims per 100,000 ages 70-79. The scams are online shopping, business imposters, tech support scams, government imposters and prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries. The most common contact for scams targeting older adults is by telephone and the requested payment is a credit card.
  • Far fewer octogenarians get scammed, but those who do lose lots more money. At ages 80 and over, just under 72 per 100,000 get scammed, but they lost an average of $1,750. And they’re not doing as much online shopping: The top scams are business imposters, tech support scams, online shopping, prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries and government imposters. They are targeted through phone calls and asked for a gift card or to reload a card.
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Signs and remedies

The Federal Trade Commission warns of four common signs something is seriously off.

The person making contact pretends to be from an organization you know. Or one that sounds pretty close to it. Think American Cancer Association instead of the legitimate American Cancer Society.

They contact you about a problem or say you’ve won a prize.

They press you to act quickly. The opportunity is now and will disappear.

They tell you exactly how to pay — cash, cryptocurrency, credit card, gift card, wire transfer, whatever.

Among the advice to avoid being taken:

  • Don’t provide personal or financial information for an unexpected request.
  • Take a deep breath and think it through. Don’t be pressured to do anything immediately. Consult someone you trust before deciding.
  • When it comes to money, don’t ever pay with cryptocurrency, a wire transfer, a payment app or a gift card. Legitimate businesses don’t want those. And, as the FTC says, “Never deposit a check and send money back to someone.”
  • Don’t click links in email and text requests, either. Instead, look up the website or the phone number of the business or bank or other entity yourself and contact them directly to verify a request.
  • Be aware that some of those fun quizzes you take online may simply be looking for personal information that can be used to steal your identity or otherwise defraud you.

If you are defrauded, you should report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.