The FTC seeks to combat deceptive practices in the United States generally, but often it pays particularly close attention to the elderly, which it views as a vulnerable demographic. Last year for example, the FTC testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Aging that it’s taking action specifically against those fraudulent schemes that affect the elderly. It makes intuitive sense that the people asking their grandchildren how to turn on the computer would be more likely to fall for online scams than those glued to technology 24/7. For millennials, however, hubris may be their downfall, as a new report from the FTC shows that Americans in their twenties and early thirties are more likely to be scammed than the elderly. Specifically, 40% of this age group who reported fraud also reported losing money, while only 18% of those 70 and older who reported fraud also reported a loss. It is worth noting, however, that when these older adults did report losing money to a scammer, the median amount lost was greater. That is, the median reported loss for people age 80 and older was $1,092 compared to $400 for those aged 20-29.
One example of a scam affecting millennials, reported by CBS News, involved a man accepting odd jobs online, which he was paid for without issue initially. The company then asked him to deposit a check and wire the money back to it. After doing so, he received a call from his bank that the check was a fraud and he was liable for the funds. This practice is called fake-check fraud and it’s a common scam affecting those aged 25-34. In situations like this, younger consumers’ greater reliance on technology also creates more opportunities for them to be exploited by it.
But for now the FTC seems to still be focused on the elderly. It brought two cases in the past month claiming deceptive practices that specifically targeted senior citizens. The alleged fraud in those cases involved the use of mailers and telemarketing––practices to which the elderly are traditionally more vulnerable. The elderly are still a vulnerable demographic, as they lose more money to fraud per transaction, but this report also establishes that younger consumers lose money to fraud more frequently. This new information could lead the FTC to increase its enforcement of schemes affecting the younger demographic. Currently, laws against fraud involving telemarketing and mailers are frequently enforced by the FTC, but in the near future we could see something like fake-check fraud added to that list. If new trends do develop, we’ll write about it on this blog.