Older Americans reported $152 million in fraud losses to the Federal Trade Commission in 2004, the agency told the Senate Special Committee on Aging.
Fraud against older consumers mirrors fraud against the population as a whole, the testimony says. After identity theft, Internet auction fraud is the top category of fraud complaints for consumers both over and under 50 years. said Lois Greisman, Associate Director of the Division of Planning and Information in the FTCs Bureau of Consumer Protection.
FTC data showed that older consumers more frequently fall victim to some types of fraud. Prize and sweepstakes fraud is more prevalent among older consumers than among the public at large, and is particularly prevalent among consumers age 70 and older, she said.
According to the testimony, the FTC received 650,000 fraud and identity theft complaints in 2004 85 percent provided the consumers age and approximately a quarter of those complaints 145,895 were from consumers age 50 and over.
The top fraud complaints categories from consumers age 50 and older were:
• Internet Auctions;
• Prizes/Sweepstakes and Lotteries;
• Internet Services and Computer Complaints;
• Shop-at-Home/Catalog Sales;
• Foreign Money Offers;
• Telephone Services;
• Advance-Fee Loans and Credit Protection/Repair;
• and Business Opportunities and Work-at-Home Plans.
Lottery and sweepstakes frauds, many of which originate in Canada, have been major targets of FTC enforcement actions, according to the testimony. Almost 12,000 older consumers complained to the FTC that they were victims of fraudulent prize or sweepstakes promotions in 2004.
Of all the complaints about identity theft filed with the agency in 2004, 51,000, representing about 22 percent of the total, were from consumers age 50 or older. The most striking difference between consumers under 50 and those over 50 was the greater prevalence of older consumers complaining that new credit accounts had been opened in their names.
According to a survey conducted by the FTC, new account fraud takes longer to detect, is more costly, and poses a greater challenge for recovery.
Our data show that fraudsters and identity thieves do not discriminate when it comes to committing trickery everyone is at risk, the testimony says.