Older consumers lose more money to scams: FTC

Older Americans lost more money on fraud schemes in 2018 than the year before, the Federal Trade Commission reported.

A median individual aged 80 or older lost $1,700 in scams in 2018, according to a new FTC report, up 55 percent from the previous year.

"This striking growth for people 80 and older was driven in large part by increases in reported median dollar losses on prize, sweepstakes and lottery scams, and family and friend imposter scams (often called the 'grandparent scam')," the FTC reported.

Money lost by consumers 60 to 79 jumped more than 20 percent. The FTC blamed that, in part, on Social Security Administration imposters.

Senior man using mobile phone while holding credit card.

"The scourge of scams and fraud is particularly heinous when older consumers are victimized," Kathy Stokes, AARP's director of fraud victim support, told FOX Business. "You see the data: When older consumers lose money to scams the amount is far higher than for other victims -- and often it's a retiree's life savings."

Older consumers were more likely than younger consumers to fall for the following scams:

  • Tech support scams
  • Friend and family or government imposter fraud
  • Prize, sweepstakes and lottery scams

Scammers are more likely to catch older consumers on the phone than online, the FTC said.

“Counter to conventional wisdom, older adults report losing money to fraud less often than younger generations," Patti Poss, a senior attorney in the FTC’s division of marketing practices, told FOX Business. "There's still concern, though, that the amount of money reported lost by older adults to fraud is quite high."


All told, consumers 60 and older paid out $134 million in fraud schemes via wire transfers. They handed over $42 million via credit cards, $39 million via cash or cash advance, and $31 million via check, according to the FTC.

"Prevention is key," Stokes said. "Educating people about scammers' tactics and the red flags to look out for reduces the likelihood of falling victim. At the end of the day, if you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam."