Elderly people lost nearly $1 billion to Internet crime in 2020

Edward G. | March 30, 2021

According to Atlas VPN findings, Americans over 60 years old lost a staggering $966 million to various types of internet scams in 2020.

Cybercriminals target victims over the age of 60 because they are believed to have significant financial resources. Also, elders tend to lack knowledge about basic internet security practices.

For example, they usually don’t bother with software updates on their devices, in turn exposing themselves to thousands of vulnerabilities.  

This data is provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) branch called Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). This branch was established in May 2000 as a center to receive complaints of internet crime.

Americans ages 60 and older submitted 105,301 complaints to the FBI and reported a total of $966 million in monetary damages last year. Meaning, on average, older citizens lose $9,174 per scam. Looking at monetary damages on a day-by-day basis, elders lost around $2.65 million daily in 2020.

US citizens ages 50-59 lost nearly $849 million from 85,967 reported scams in 2020. Average financial losses per scam are even bigger, amounting to an average of $9,863 per complaint.  

Next up, people ages 40-49 also lost a huge amount of money to cybercriminals, totaling $717 million from 91,568 reports. In other words, this demographic loses around $7,832 every time they fall victim to internet scams. 

Even though Americans ages 30-39 reported a similar number of scams at 88,364, their losses are substantially lower than all previous groups, at $492 million in losses in 2020. In turn, their reported losses per complaint are also smaller, reaching around $5,570.

Internet users ages 20-29 suffered over $197 million in financial losses from 70,791 reported internet crime cases, which means that generally, victims in this demographic suffer $2,788 in damages when they get scammed online. 

Finally, the youngest demographic, Americans under the age of twenty, reported almost $71 million in losses from 23,186 individual complaints in 2020. It turns out that their average losses are similar to those of the demographic ages 20-29 since they lose around $3,061 per submitted complaint.  

Elder Justice Initiative

In order to fight against the rampant fraud against older citizens, the FBI and Department of Justice partnered up and launched the Elder Justice Initiative. Here, agencies worked together to educate people of older age on how to protect themselves from falling victim to online scams as well as other types of abuse.

Here, we will cover three types of internet scams that elders often suffer from.

One of the oldest scams in the book but still widely used is tech support scams. In short, fraudsters call the victim via phone and claim to be computer technicians from a well-known company and that their device is infected with a virus and needs to be taken care of.

Then, the cybercriminal asks the victim to provide remote access to his computer, and the technician will supposedly take care of the problem. Finally, the fraudster diagnoses a non-existent issue with the computer and asks the victim to pay substantial sums of money for the provided services. 

Second is the Social Security Administration impostor scam. Swindlers call the victim and claim that their Social Security number (SSN) was suspended because they suspect it was used for criminal activities. Fraudsters then ask the victim to confirm their SSN, or they will withdraw money from the victims' account and store it for “safekeeping”. 

Elders often panic and give up their Social Security number as well as other personal information, which criminals use for other types of crimes. 

Finally, the scam that caused $600 million in losses across all demographics is romance scams. Cyber criminals abuse citizens that want to use online dating sites to forge meaningful relationships.  

Scammers create fake profiles, communicate with the victim for a significant period of time, and eventually convince people to send money because of an emergency or as a proof of love. These scams are one of the easiest to detect because as soon as someone you met online starts asking for money, you can be sure they are scam artists. 

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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