US military personnel lost over $822 million to scams since 2017

Edward G. | August 11, 2021

According to research conducted by Atlas VPN, US military members lost $822.1 million to different types of internet crime between 2017 and June 30, 2021. Military personnel filed more than 836,374 reports of fraud, identity theft, and other consumer concerns with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The FTC uses these complaints as a starting point for criminal investigations. The FTC does not investigate the allegations, but it does disseminate the information to over 2,500 law enforcement agencies across the United States.

The Federal Trade Commission divides US military people into three categories. Reports from reservists and family members go into the first category. The second group consists of complaints from active-duty personnel only. The third group contains veteran and military retiree reports.

The first category, reservists and military personnel families, was behind the lion’s share of the losses, at $484.4 million, 59% of all military monetary damages in the last 5 and a half years. They also submitted over 322 thousand unique complaints to the FTC.

The veterans & military retirees’ financial damages encompass 35% of all losses at $290.1 million. This group fell to various types of internet crime most often, as they sent out a total of 452 thousand reports. The median loss in this category is $700.

Finally, fraudsters swindled over $47.6 million from active duty service members. This group also submitted the least complaints at 52 thousand since 2017. The median loss for active duty service members is one hundred lower than that of veterans, at $600.  

To put the findings in the nutshell, even though the US has numerous task forces to deal with this growing epidemic of internet crime, each individual should be cautious and stay on the lookout for any red flags when dealing with internet-related money transfers. 

Most dangerous types of scams

In the second part of the report, we will look at the top five most damaging scam categories. 

Interestingly, romance scams, also widely known as catfishing, are at the top of the list. Heartless criminals lured out as much as $92 million from the US military members. 

Even though romance scams have been widely known for quite a while, victims are still not afraid to send large amounts of money to someone they met online, as the median loss to this type of crime stands at $2,400. Victims submitted a total of 7,120 romance scam reports to the FTC.

The second most damaging internet crime for the US military members was miscellaneous investments. As much as $90.2 million were lost to bogus investments. The median loss is not that far behind romance scams, hovering at $2,000.

Third on the list is business imposters, a type of scam where fraudsters pretend to be a well-known brand to empty the pockets of their victims. Imposters were able to lure out $86.7 million from US military personnel. Here, the median loss is $1,000, and reports reach nearly 66 thousand.

Government imposters are fourth on the list. Like business imposters, criminals pretend to be authoritative figures to steal money from unsuspecting victims. This is the most popular scam, as it was reported over 102 thousand times, totaling $85.6 million in losses. The median loss is $1,200. 

Finally, online shopping scams were the cause of $72 million in damages. Median losses are substantially lower than that of other scams, standing at $168. The FTC received almost 50 thousand online shopping complaints throughout the last five and a half years.

The Federal Trade Commission encourages people to share any scams or rip-offs they come across. The US citizens can report scams here: ftc.gov/complaint.


To discover more information about the current cybercrime landscape, check out our 2021 H1 Cybercrime Statistics report.

Edward G.

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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