Americans report 168k imposter scam cases amounting to $300m in losses YTD
According to data extracted and analyzed by Atlas VPN, the United States residents reported 168,818 imposter scam cases amounting to $299.9 million in losses in the first half of 2020 with a median loss of $694.
Imposter scams involve criminals pretending to be a trusted person to lure out money or personal information from unsuspecting victims. Examples include scammers posing as friends or family members, romantic interests, pretending to be affiliated with a government agency, or a private entity, such as a charity or company.
Atlas VPN analyzed consumer fraud data provided by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In total, the US residents reported 168,818 imposter scams in the first half of 2020. That is more than two times less than in H1 2019, when the US consumers reported 355,866 imposter fraud cases.
Nevertheless, while the number of imposter scams in the first half of 2020 dropped compared to the same period last year, the amount of consumers who incurred loss due to such scams doubled. It grew from 11% in 2019 to 22% in 2020.
The amount of funds lost to imposter scams also increased by 15%, suggesting that imposter fraud is becoming more sophisticated. It rose from $261.1 million in 2019 H1 to $299.9 million in 2020 H1.
Looking over the past six years' data, we can see that the number of imposter scams faced by US residents was fluctuating year by year, however, the amount of funds lost to imposter scams grew steadily. It surged more than fourfold from $71.4 million in the first half of 2015 to a whopping $299.9 million in the first half of 2020.
Imposter scams most common in California
Imposter fraud was present in all the US states, however, some states had a bigger share of imposter scams than others. The biggest US state in terms of population, California, had 13,312 imposter scams in the first half of 2020 — the most out of all the 50 states.
The number of imposter scams in California dropped by 66% compared to the same period of time last year. Imposter fraud faced by California’s residents account for 8% of the total number of imposter scam cases reported by the US residents.
Next up is Florida, whose residents reported 10,489 imposter scam cases — 47% less than a year before. The third spot in the top state list is occupied by Texas, whose residents disclosed 9,944 scam cases in the first half of this year — 48% less than in 2019. Imposter fraud in each of the states constitute approximately 6% of the total amount of imposter scams reported by the US residents in the first half of 2020.
Other states with a significant amount of imposter scams include New York (7,844), Pennsylvania (4,958), Ohio (4,474), Illinois (4,313), Michigan (4,254), North Carolina (3,893), and Georgia (3,731).
The state with the fewest amount of imposter scams is Wyoming — the least populated US state overall. Wyoming residents reported 165 imposter scams in the first half of 2020, which account for less than 0.01% of the total amount of imposter fraud cases in the US. The number of this type of scams in Wyoming dropped by 56% compared to the first half of last year.
Other US states with a low count of imposter scam cases include North Dakota (187), South Dakota (205), Alaska (261), Vermont (264), Rhode Island (426), Montana (463), Maine (473), Hawaii (488), and Delaware (504).
How to protect yourself from imposter fraud
All imposter scams start out the same. You get unexpectedly contacted by a person, usually via email or phone. The person might be pretending to be your friend or family member in need of urgent help. He or she might also be posing as a government official or company representative you would normally trust. Whoever the person pretends to be, they are usually after your sensitive information or your hard-earned funds.
If you find yourself in such a situation, it is essential to confirm whether the person who is contacting you is truly who they are claiming to be. If you receive a call from a representative of a certain company or institution, for example, confirm independently whether that entity is really trying to reach you.
Call up their official number provided on the company’s website or write an email to the official email address. Do not give out any sensitive personal information unless you are 100% sure who you are dealing with.
Secondly, if you find out that you really were contacted by scammers, report the incident right away. You should warn the person or the organization being impersonated, as well as the government institutions in charge of dealing with imposter scams.
US residents who have been affected by imposter scams can report to the Federal Trade Commission here.
Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. Interested in cybercrime, online security, and privacy-related topics.