FTC’s Annual Report: Protecting Older Adults
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a pivotal U.S. government agency responsible for consumer protection, has unveiled its much-anticipated annual report to Congress. This year’s report places a significant emphasis on the safety and protection of the nation’s older adults, a demographic often targeted by fraudulent activities. Delving deep into the data, the FTC’s annual report offers insights into the most common trends and patterns of scams that older adults fall prey to.
Moreover, it showcases the FTC’s multifaceted strategies and initiatives, combining law enforcement actions, rulemaking, and educational outreach, all aimed at combating these challenges and to help ensure the well-being of senior citizens.
Key Highlights from the FTC Report
Fraud Reports and Financial Losses
The report in (PDF) titled “Protecting Older Consumers, 2022-2023, A Report of the Federal Trade Commission” reveals some alarming statistics:
- Older adults reported a staggering loss of over $1.6 billion due to fraud in 2022.
- The FTC estimates the overall cost of fraud to older consumers to be as high as $48 billion. This is because a vast majority of frauds go unreported.
- In 2022, older adults reported significantly higher losses to various scams compared to 2021:
Investment scams: $404 million reported lost, an increase of 175% from 2021.
Business impersonation scams: $271 million reported lost, up by 78% from the previous year.
Tech support scams: Losses amounted to $159 million, marking a 117% rise from 2021.
The analysis of fraud reports in 2022 showed that adults aged 60 and over were less likely to report losing money to fraud compared to those aged 18-59.
However, when older adults did report losses, the amounts were considerably higher. Specifically:
- Consumers aged 80 and above reported a median loss of $1,750 to fraud.
- Those in their seventies reported a median loss of $1,000.
- Both these figures have seen an increase from 2021.
Furthermore, Older Adults Were:
- Over six times more likely than adults aged 18 to 59 to report losses to tech support scams.
- More than twice as likely to report a loss to prize, lottery, or sweepstakes scams.
- 73% more likely to report losing money to friend or family impersonation scams.
Online Frauds and Scams Impacting Older Adults
The report also delves into the nature of scams targeting older adults:
- Older adults filed the highest number of reports about online frauds, especially those encountered via social media, websites, or online advertisements.
- The most significant median losses were reported by older adults for frauds that began with a phone call.
- The impact of scams where older adults were contacted on social media saw a notable rise. The median reported loss from such scams increased from $460 in 2021 to $800 in 2022.
FTC’s Actions and Recommendations
Addressing the AMG Capital Decision
The report emphasizes the need for Congress to update the FTC Act, especially in light of the Supreme Court’s 2021 ruling in the AMG Capital Management case. This ruling has restricted the FTC’s ability to recover money lost by older adults and other consumers to scammers.
Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, stated, “We do all we can to protect older adults and shut down the scams targeting them. But we still need Congress to restore our authority to get money back from the scammers and into consumers’ pockets.”
Enforcement Actions and Partnerships
The FTC has been proactive in taking measures against entities that exploit older consumers. Some of these actions include:
- Issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking on government and business impersonation.
- Taking action against companies like a publishing house, a company involved in a bogus credit card relief scheme, a timeshare exit scam, and more.
- Collaborating with other federal agencies, state, and local authorities to protect older consumers.
Outreach and Consumer Education
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has consistently prioritized its role in outreach and education, especially when it comes to safeguarding the interests of older adults. Recognizing the vulnerability of this demographic to various scams and fraudulent activities, the FTC has launched and supported several initiatives to equip them with the necessary knowledge and tools to protect themselves.
“Pass it On” Campaign
One such notable initiative is the “Pass it On” campaign. This program is not just about informing older adults but empowering them to be ambassadors of knowledge. The campaign encourages seniors to not only learn about potential scams but also to share this knowledge with their peers, families, and communities. By fostering a community-based approach, the FTC aims to create a ripple effect, where informed individuals can act as a first line of defense against scams, thereby protecting those around them.
However, the FTC’s efforts don’t stop at campaigns. Legislative measures are equally crucial in this fight against fraud targeting seniors. A significant step in this direction is the “Stop Senior Scams Act of 2022.” This act represents a comprehensive legislative effort to curb the rising tide of scams specifically targeting the elderly.
The Stop Senior Scams Act of 2022
The Stop Senior Scams Act of 2022 aims to:
- Establish a Federal Advisory Council: This council will comprise experts from various fields, including consumer protection, financial services, and senior advocacy. Their primary role will be to provide recommendations and strategies to combat scams targeting older adults.
- Promote Inter-agency Collaboration: Recognizing that the fight against scams requires a united front, the act encourages collaboration between different federal agencies. This ensures a more streamlined approach to identifying, reporting, and addressing scams.
- Educate and Train Retailers and Financial Institutions: Often, scammers exploit services provided by retailers and financial institutions to defraud seniors. The act mandates training for employees of these institutions to recognize potential scams and take appropriate action.
- Public Awareness Campaigns: The act allocates resources for widespread public awareness campaigns. These campaigns will inform seniors about common scams, how to recognize them, and steps to take if they suspect they are being targeted.
- Provide Resources for Reporting: The act emphasizes the importance of reporting scams. It aims to establish easy-to-use platforms where seniors or their caregivers can report potential scams, ensuring timely intervention.
The FTC’s dedication to implementing the Stop Senior Scams Act of 2022 underscores its commitment to creating a safer environment for older adults. Through a combination of educational campaigns, legislative measures, and inter-agency collaboration, the FTC is paving the way for a future where seniors can lead secure and informed lives. We commend the FTC for the development of these programs and actions taken against bad actors in the marketplace.
This article is for information purposes only and is not intended to provide legal or financial advice. It is always advisable to consult with a professional before making any decisions based on information found in this article. For more resources and tips on how to protect yourself from scams, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s portal.
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