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 multi-pronged efforts to combat the problem through law enforcement actions, rulemaking, and outreach and education programs.
In addition, the report calls on Congress to update the FTC Act in response to the Supreme Court’s 2021 ruling in the AMG Capital Management case, which severely limited the FTC’s ability to recover money that older adults and other consumers lose to scammers.
“We do all we can to protect older adults and shut down the scams targeting them,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But we still need Congress to restore our authority to get money back from the scammers and into consumers’ pockets.”
The report, Protecting Older Consumers, 2022-2023, A Report of the Federal Trade Commission, finds that older adults reported losing more than $1.6 billion to fraud in 2022.
Because the vast majority of frauds are not reported, this figure represents only a fraction of the overall cost of fraud to older consumers, which the FTC estimates to be as high as $48 billion. The report also finds that in 2022, older adults reported significantly higher losses to investment scams, business impersonation scams and government impersonation scams than they did in 2021:
- Investment scams: $404 million reported lost, up 175% from 2021.
- Business impersonation scams: $271 million reported lost, up 78% from 2021.
- Tech support scams: $159 million reported lost, up 117% from 2021.
As in prior years, the analysis of fraud reports received by the FTC in 2022 showed that adults aged 60 and over were substantially less likely to report losing money to fraud than adults aged 18-59. 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 $1,750 to fraud, while those in their seventies reported a median loss of $1,000, with both numbers increasing over 2021.
The analysis included in the report to Congress also found that adults 60 and older were more than six times as likely as adults aged 18 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 73 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 were first exposed to the fraud 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. The impact of scams where older adults were contacted on social media also increased; the median reported loss from this type of scam jumped from $460 in 2021 to $800 in 2022.
The report focuses on key actions the FTC has taken to protect older consumers, particularly in light of the Supreme Court’s AMG Capital decision. In 2022, the Commission issued a notice of proposed rulemaking on government and business impersonation, which is aimed at curbing a form of fraud that has resulted in tremendous losses for older consumers. A new rule would offer additional tools for the FTC to seek refunds for consumers harmed by these scams.
In addition, the report notes a number of enforcement actions that had a particular impact on older consumers, including cases against Publishers Clearing House for using dark patterns to mislead consumers into thinking that making a purchase would increase their chances of winning the company’s sweepstakes drawing; a company that placed more than a billion calls to consumers, including hundreds of robocalls and calls to consumers on the National Do-Not-Call Registry; a bogus credit card relief scheme; a timeshare exit scam; a company making false health claims about COVID prevention; and current and former major distributors for the multi-level marketing company doTERRA for making baseless claims about COVID treatments. 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. It also details the FTC’s ongoing efforts to implement the Stop Senior Scams Act of 2022.
The Commission vote authorizing the report to Congress was 3-0.