Claire Kowalick, Wichita Falls Times Record News
Published 7:20 p.m. CT Nov. 1, 2019
A Federal Trade Commission survey found that in 2017, about 40 million Americans were victims of fraud – about 16 percent of the population.
The survey results, released Thursday, is a comprehensive look at the prevalence of mass-market consumer fraud. Similar surveys were conducted by the FTC in 2003, 2005 and 2011.
The survey was conducted in mid-2017. The most common types of fraud reported at that time were for weight-loss products, computer repairs or individuals being told they owed money to the government.
More consumers reported fraudulent weight-loss products than any other type of scam. Nearly three percent of the respondents were victims of weight-loss fraud and there was an estimated 10 million incidents of weight-loss product fraud that year.
Other common frauds are unauthorized billing for purchasing club memberships, unauthorized billing for an item for a cell phone (such as a ring tone or game) and phony prize promotions.
The survey shows each of these common frauds has at least two million U.S. victims.
There was an estimated 61.8 million incidents of fraud in 2017.
As internet transactions become more common, the incidence of online fraud has risen as well. At least 54 percent of all fraud involved internet promotion of products or services. This is a 21 percent increase from the 2011 survey.
About four percent of respondents said they had paid for a product that they never received and another four percent said they had been billed for a product or service without agreeing to the purchase.
The median consumer loss to fraud was $100. About a quarter of victims lost more than $250.
The highest median losses came from fraudulent business opportunities – where the median amount paid was $650 – or fraudulent credit repair – where the median amount paid was $325.
For fraudulent products purchased, 60 percent of victims placed orders on the internet. This is a 40 percent increase over the 20045 survey where only 20 percent of frauds were ordered online.
The use of money orders or wire transfers to pay for fraudulent purchases declined from 13 percent in 2011 to just three percent in 2017.
People ages 35-54 were the most likely victims of fraud when compared to other age categories.
According to the survey 22 percent of respondents ages 35-44 were victims of fraud and 20 percent for those 45-54.
Respondents over age 65 were more likely than younger respondents to report being victims of fraudulent computer repair scams.
Women are also more likely to be fraud victims with 19 percent of women reporting fraud as opposed to 13 percent in men, according to the survey.
The survey shows people who are more likely to take a risk or have recently experienced a negative life event (such as the death of a loved one) are more likely to be fraud victims.
People experiencing high levels of debt or people who predict their income will increase substantially in the next few years are also more likely to have fallen prey to fraudsters.
The survey was conducted by telephone in English and Spanish among 3,717 respondents. Calls were made to randomly selected phone lines, both cell phones and landline, in all 50 states and Washington D.C. The response rate was about 11 percent for cell phones and 12 percent for landlines.
Claire Kowalick, a senior journalist for the Times Record News, covers local government, military and MSU Texas. If you have a news tip, contact Claire at [email protected]
Read or Share this story: https://www.timesrecordnews.com/story/news/local/2019/11/01/ftc-survey-40-mil-americans-victims-fraud/4122579002/