More than 68,000 adults over age 60 lost a total of more than $835 million in 2019 in internet scams, according to the FBI.
The statistics are part of the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) “2019 Internet Crime Report” and represent a substantial increase over the $649 million loss reported for 2018 and the $342 million reported for 2017.
Overall, the FBI fielded 467,361 complaints of suspected internet crime for losses totaling more than $3.5 billion.
The top three crime types reported in 2019:
- Phishing / vishing / smishing / pharming — Unsolicited email, text message and phone calls purportedly from a legitimate company requesting personal, financial and / or login information.
- Non-payment / non-delivery — Good and services are shipped but not paid for, or payment is sent but good and services are not received.
- Extortion — Unlawful extraction of money or property through intimidation or undue exercise of authority, including threats of physical harm, criminal prosecution or public exposure.
The top three crime types with the highest reported loss:
- Business email compromise / email account compromise — Business email compromise is a scam targeting businesses working with foreign suppliers and / or businesses regularly performing wire transfer payments. Email account compromise is a similar scam that targets individuals by compromising email accounts to conduct unauthorized transfers of funds.
- Confidence / romance fraud — A perpetrator deceives a victim into believing the perpetrator and the victim have a trust relationship, whether family, friendly or romantic. As a result, the victim is persuaded to send money, personal and financial information, or items of value to the perpetrator, or to launder money on behalf of the perpetrator. Some variations of this scheme are romance / dating scams or the grandparents scam.
- Spoofing — Contact information (phone number, email, website) is deliberately falsified to mislead and appear to be from a legitimate source.
In March 2019, the FBI and other federal law enforcement partners launched an elder fraud and tech support fraud sweep, targeting more than 260 defendants who allegedly defrauded more than 2 million U.S. elderly victims of more than $750 million.
Victims over the age of 60 are targeted because they are perceived to have significant financial resources, according to the FBI. Older adults most often are targeted for scams including advance fee schemes, investment fraud schemes, romance scams, tech support scams, grandparent scams, government impersonation scams, sweepstakes / charity / lottery scams, home repair scams, TV / radio scams and family / caregiver scams, the agency said.
Tech support fraud is a growing problem, with the majority of victims over age 60. The FBI reports that criminals may pose as support or service representatives offering to resolve a compromised email or bank account, a virus on a computer or a software license renewal. Last year, the IC3 received 13,633 tech support fraud complaints from victims in 48 countries who lost more than $54 million, a 40% increase from 2018.
In one case, the FBI reported a North Carolina man pleaded guilty to conspiracy to access a protected computer for his role in an international tech support scam that defrauded hundreds of victims, including seniors, of more than $3 million. The scam involved placing fake pop-up ads on victims’ computers to convince them they had a serious computer problem, then convince them to pay for “technical support” services to resolve the issue.
Since its inception in 2000, the IC3 has fielded more than 4 million complaints. People can report suspected criminal Internet activity to the IC3 at its website.