Hear “scam victim” and you probably imagine someone with dentures, reading glasses and a lot of free time to respond to emails from Nigerian princes. But a new report suggests seniors aren’t actually the ones most likely to get scammed.
For the first time, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) analyzed fraud losses by age group in its annual summary of complaints for 2017 and found that 40 percent of 20-somethings reported losing money to fraud, compared to just 18 percent of those 70 and older. (Although senior victims lost twice as much: a median $1,092 compared to $400 for those in their 20s.)
Across all age groups, debt collection was the top consumer complaint category, accounting for nearly a quarter of all issues. This includes any violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which runs the gamut from debt collectors who inaccurately represent the amount or status of debt to those who falsely threaten a lawsuit. And that’d certainly include companies preying on student loan borrowers. The FTC is currently cracking down on a growing list of businesses for shady practices, like collecting illegal fees and falsely promising loan forgiveness, that’ve already cost consumers $95 million.
Another way con artists target 20-somethings? According to FTC spokeswoman Juliana Gruenwald Henderson, undergrad and graduate students have been receiving calls recently “from the IRS,” claiming they failed to pay taxes owed on scholarships and grants. “While it’s a scary call to receive, of course it was not the IRS,” she says. (The IRS will never call to demand immediate payment or to request your credit or debit card number.)
Gruenwald Henderson’s top tip is to be wary of imposters posing as trusted sources. “Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, like a government official, family member, charity or company you do business with,” she says. If it sounds at all fishy, it probably is.
The best path to protection is never to send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request, whether it comes as a text, phone call or email. Instead, call the organization or person yourself to verify. You can also sign up to get free scam alerts from the FTC.