Americans lost $1.19 billion to imposter scams in 2020

Edward G. | April 21, 2021

Atlas VPN findings reveal that Americans lost $1.19 billion to imposter fraud in 2020, which is $613.8 million more than the previous year, representing a 106.56% increase. 

Here, a criminal pretends to be a trusted person to get consumers to send money or provide sensitive personal information. Most commonly, scammers impersonate a family member, someone from a government agency, a computer technician, a well-known company representative, or even a romantic interest.

The data is provided by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). US Citizens can submit fraud reports to the FTC for further investigation. The FTC shares this data to inform the nation about the state of the cybercrime landscape in the US. 

Last year, Americans submitted 498,278 imposter scam complaints, out of which 22% reported a financial loss. Median loss reaches $850. Scammers used phone calls as the most common method of contact. On average, US citizens lost $297.45 million per quarter to imposter scams in 2020.

In 2019, consumers lost $576 million to impersonators from 645,874 individual complaints. Significantly fewer people reported losing money to such scams, with 13% of complaints indicating monetary damages. On average, victims lost $144 million per quarter, with median losses standing at $650. Once again, fraudsters mostly used phone calls to contact the victims.

Looking back at 2018, US consumers submitted 549,922 pretender scam complaints. Over 18% of victims indicated a financial loss, which amounted to $491.6 million in damages. Fraudsters swindled out around $122.9 million per quarter, with median losses at $500.

In 2017, criminals stole $350.4 million by using imposter scams, which amounts to around $87.6 million per quarter. The FTC received 461,527 complaints, out of which 18% of individuals claimed to have lost money. Median losses reported were $480. 

The Federal Trade Commission provides imposter scam data dating back to 2016, when Americans lost $227.7 million to these types of schemes. Consumers submitted 414,035 complaints, with 13% indicating that they lost money. Median losses came out to $500. Just like all previous years, the most commonly used mode of contact was a phone call. 

Finally, throughout the last five years, US residents suffered a staggering $2.34 billion in damages from imposter scams.

Protect yourself from imposter scams 

All imposter scams begin the same way. Someone contacts you suddenly, typically via email or phone. The person may be impersonating a friend or family member who requires immediate assistance. He or she may even be impersonating a government official or a business representative you trust. They're usually after your personal data or your hard-earned cash.

If you find yourself in this situation, it's essential to verify that the person who is contacting you is who they say they are. If you receive a call from a representative of a corporation or institution, for example, go ahead and research online if they are calling from an official phone number. 

Better yet, hang up the phone and call back the institution yourself. If you're not sure who you're dealing with, don't give out any confidential personal details.

Second, if you discover that you were approached by scammers, report the incident as soon as possible. You should notify the individual or agency who is being impersonated, as well as government agencies responsible for imposter scams.

US residents who have been affected by imposter scams can report the case to the Federal Trade Commission here.

John C.

Edward G.

Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. My mission is to scan the ever-evolving cybercrime landscape to inform the public about the latest threats.

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