FTC lists the scams posing the biggest threats to consumers


The top scams of 2023 are likely prevalent this year

Americans lost more than $10 billion to scammers in 2023 and there is no reason to think that number will fall in 2024, without more consumer vigilance.

In its annual report, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) broke down the types of scams that victimized Americans throughout the year. Number one on the list is investment scams, costing consumers $4.6 billion.

These scams can take many forms, usually after the scammer has earned the victim’s trust. Think Bernie Madoff. Madoff ran a glorified Ponzi scheme for years, attracting investments from the rich and famous.

Only Madoff never invested the money. If someone wanted to withdraw some money he always provided it because he had a steady stream of new money flowing into his “fund.” It was only when the financial crisis of 2008 arrived that Madoff was exposed, since nearly everyone wanted to withdraw their money.

These days, investment scams often come in the form of “pig butchering.” That’s when a scammer makes contact with someone on social media and, after developing a relationship, casually mentions that they made a lot of money in a sure-fire Bitcoin investment and offers to help the victim make a killing as well.


Imposter scams

A variety of imposter scams also stole millions of dollars from victims. Scammers pose as government officials as well as well-known brands, such as Amazon, the U.S. Postal Service and Microsoft.

Other scam categories revolved around online shopping issues, phony sweepstakes and lotteries, and business and job opportunity scams.

"Digital tools are making it easier than ever to target hard-working Americans, and we see the effects of that in the data we're releasing today,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC is working hard to take action against those scams."

Another shift worth noting is how scammers communicate with their victims. After years in which phone calls and text messages were the most common medium, scammers went back to using email in 2023.

Phone calls were the second most commonly reported contact method for fraud in 2023, followed by text messages.

The FTC said it received fraud reports from 2.6 million consumers last year, nearly the same amount as 2022. 

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