Mar 1, 2024 - News

Washington residents lost $250 million to scammers last year

Illustration of a fishing hook sinking into an ocean of hundred dollar bills.

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Washingtonians lost nearly $250 million to fraud in 2023, according to a new Federal Trade Commission report.

Why it matters: Americans lost a record $10 billion to fraudsters in 2023, with no group — young, old, even computer-savvy — showing immunity to the evolving and increasingly sophisticated scams, according to the FTC and other consumer protection groups.

  • In fact, over the last few years, Gen Xers, millennials and Gen Zers were 86% more likely to report losing money to online shopping scams than older adults, per the FTC.

By the numbers: More than 53,000 fraud reports were filed by Washington residents, according to the FTC.

  • The median loss per victim was about $500, per the FTC.
  • Washington was found to be the fourth most defrauded state based on money lost relative to the state's population — $3.2 million per 100,000 residents, according to QR code generating company QRFY, which analyzed the FTC data,

Zoom in: The most common types of scams reported in Washington were impostor scams, identity theft, online shopping and review fraud and loan frauds.

  • Impostor scams, which can include romance scams, occur when a person is tricked into sending money, usually via wire transfer or gift card, by someone claiming to be someone else, according to the Better Business Bureau.
  • Online shopping and review fraud can take various forms, including fake stores, fake ads and fake or dishonest product reviews, per the FTC.
  • With loan fraud and mortgage and foreclosure fraud, phony lenders guarantee a quick loan or fast fix with no upfront fees. But victims who provide their Social Security and banking information are left in the lurch, per the BBB and the state attorney general's office.

What they're saying: People of all ages, demographics and educational backgrounds can fall victim to fraud, per the AARP.

  • "Given the right criminal interacting with the right person at the right time, anyone can lose money to fraud," Jason Erskine, a spokesperson for AARP Washington, told Axios.
  • Erskine said people between the ages of 20 and 29 reported losing money to fraud more often than older people, but people above 70 reported higher losses.

The bottom line: Be wary! Never send money to someone you don't know, per the BBB.

  • Dale Dixon, BBB Great West + Pacific's chief innovation officer, told Axios it's critical for consumers to do research to confirm the track record of companies before buying.
  • Never give out financial information on the phone (or via text). Avoid unsolicited loan offers and remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Go deeper: AARP Washington is hosting a free online monthly class to teach people how to protect themselves from online criminals.

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