Attorney General Ford Shares Federal Trade Commission Data on How Scams Affect Different Age Groups

Mar. 10, 2023

Carson City, NV – As National Consumer Protection Week continues, Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford seeks to educate Nevada consumers about how scams affect every age group differently.

“While many people assume that scams primarily affect older adults, the fact is that Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Z are actually more likely than adults older than 60 to report losing money to fraud,” said AG Ford. “Educating yourself about the scams targeting your age group can help you from losing your hard-earned money to a fraudster.”

The most recent Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Consumer Sentinel data from 2021 shows how scams are targeted by age groups. The FTC collects and analyzes consumer report information through its Consumer Sentinel Network (“Sentinel”). Sentinel is a secure online database that provides federal, state and local law enforcement agencies with access to reports from consumers about fraud and other consumer problems.

The data, presented here in graphs from Sentinel, was divided into two groups: Younger adults, which includes adults ages 18-59, and older adults, ages 60 and older.

     Younger Adults (ages 18-59)

    • Young adults were more likely than older adults to report losing money to fraud. Younger adults reported losses mostly because of online shopping fraud, which often started with an ad on social media. 
    • Younger adults were almost four times more likely than older adults to report a loss on an investment scam. Investment scams refer to fraud reports classified as investment seminars and advice; stocks and commodity futures trading; art; gems and rare coin investments; and miscellaneous investments. Most of these were cryptocurrency investment scams. 
    • Young adults reported losing money on job scams at more than five times the rate of older adults. Many college students reported that they were scammed after getting a message at their student email address about a so-called job opportunity. Scammers advertise jobs the same way legitimate employers do — online (in ads, on job sites and social media), in newspapers and sometimes on TV and radio. They promise you a job, but what they want is your money and your personal information. 
    • The median individual reported fraud loss by people 18-59 was $500 in 2021.

       Older Adults (60 and older)

      • For older adults, different types of scams stood out. In 2021, they were about five times more likely to report losing money on tech support scams than younger adults. Tech support scammers impersonate companies like Apple and Microsoft to trick you into sending money to fix an “urgent” security problem that doesn’t exist. 
      • Older adults were also more than twice as likely to report losing money on a prize, sweepstakes or lottery scam. Prize, sweepstakes and lottery scams often impersonate a well-known business to trick people into sending money to claim nonexistent winnings. 
      • While older adults were less likely to report losing money to fraud, those 70 and over reported much higher median individual losses. The median reported loss was $800 for people 70-79, and a massive $1,500 for those 80 and over.

        This figure shows what types of fraud are more likely to be reported by age groups:

        Reports also point to generational differences in how scammers reach people. In 2021, 31% of people 18-59 who reported losing money on a scam said it started on a social media platform, compared to 15% of people 60 and older. For those adults under 30, reports suggest social media plays an even larger role - nearly 40% of 2021 fraud loss reports for that group originated on social media.

        Alternatively, scams starting with a phone call were much more likely to reach older adults. In 2021, 24% of older adults who reported losing money to a scam said it started with a phone call, compared to just 10% of younger consumers. The numbers are higher still for people 80 and older - more than 40% of their 2021 loss reports identified a phone call as the contact method.

          The darker bars show loss reports submitted by older adults (age 60 and older), and the lighter lines show loss reports filed by younger people (ages 18-59) for each category of fraud. As shown in Figure 3, older adults were more likely than younger people to report financial losses to certain types of frauds. Three categories of fraud continued to stand out in 2021. Older adults were: 1. nearly five times more likely than younger people to report losing money on a tech support scam; 2. more than twice as likely to report a loss on a prize, sweepstakes or lottery scam; and 3. 45% more likely to report a loss on a family or friend impersonation scam.

            Scammers target by means that are familiar to differing generations. While older adults are generally more comfortable with phone calls and mail, younger adults have adopted social media, texts and email as primary means of communication. The lessons from the data are clear: do not send personal information or payments of any kind to an unknown source, regardless of the promises made.

            As a Nevadan, you are one of our best resources for finding out about scams. If you have been a victim of a scam, you may file a complaint with the Office of the Nevada Attorney General. Please file as much information as possible with your complaint, including any information you have about the person or entity that contacted you.