FTC Says These Are the Most Common Ways Scammers Got Our Money in 2017

Handcuffs lying on american dollars
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Let’s face it, 2017 was a crazy year.

We had a total solar eclipse, Hollywood was full of scandals and Sean Spicer made SNL must-see TV again.

Meanwhile, it seems like everyone was out to get your money in nefarious ways.

The Federal Trade Commission has released its breakdown of consumer complaints for 2017. It received nearly 2.7 million complaints last year, and 42.5% were fraud reports.

The Top Fraud Categories of 2017

The FTC’s list for 2017 breaks down complaints into three primary categories: fraud, identity theft and other. The “other” category came in at No. 1 in terms of the number of reports, but it covers a lot of turf. Fraud, on the other hand, outpaced identity theft by about a 3-to-1 margin.

So if that many people are experiencing fraud, how is it happening? Here are the top five ways scammers are trying to get your money.

1. Imposter Scams: That Fraudster’s Not Who They Say They Are

People posing as government officials, tech support or even loved ones in dire trouble grabbed a reported $328 million from unsuspecting people last year. The FTC received about 350,000 reports of imposter scams, with the median loss around $500.

2. Telephone and Mobile Services: Can You Hear Me Now? Fraud!

Nearly 150,000 people reported phone-related fraud. This covered everything from unauthorized charges on their accounts, to scams involving text messages and even apps. The median loss was only $223, but it still accounted for $17 million in total losses.

3. Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries: Won the Nigerian Lottery Without Leaving Your Couch?

Yep, people still fall for this. Hint: If you get an email or a phone call telling you that you’re the winner of some lottery you’ve never entered or even heard of, you’re getting scammed.

Oh, and if you need to wire money to someone to receive your winnings, ditto. Last year, 142,870 people reported falling for such scams, and the median loss was $511.

The FTC’s official statement on this was “SMH.” (Not really)

4. Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales: I’ve Got a Great Bridge to Sell You

For 126,387 consumers, that too-good-to-be-true deal they found was just that. The median reported loss was $261 when people didn’t get what they paid for.

5. Internet Services: That Free Movie Download Will Probably Have a Terrible Ending

Internet service fraud came in at No. 5, with 45,093 people filing complaints. Phishing scams, malware, gaming scams and social media scams all played a part here. The median loss was $183 for a total of $19 million dollars wasted.

Other Interesting Tidbits About Scams in 2017

Here are a few other interesting things to note in the FTC’s report for 2017.

Scammers Are Targeting the Inexperienced

A higher number of younger people reported losses to fraud than older people. A disturbing 40% of reported cases were from people ages 20 to 29. However, those over the age of 70 who reported losses to fraud lost a lot more money on average.

Your Phone Is Not Your Friend

How do scammers reach people? Your little buddy in your pocket was the No. 1 tool for fraud. It was the contact method in 70% of all fraud reports in 2017. Phone scams are abundant and seem to get more creative all the time.

Wire Transfer Requests Should Be Red Flags

The No. 1 way scammers will ask you to send money? Wire transfer. If someone you don’t know requests a wire transfer, be wary. Be very wary.

The 3 States Where Residents Were Most Likely to Report Fraud

Based on number of reports per 100,000 residents, Florida, Georgia and Nevada were the top states for fraud.

Being in the age of wireless information makes life a lot easier, but also a little more dangerous. After a rocky 2017, don’t expect 2018 to be any less fraudulent. It’s likely to be even more so. Be on your guard and keep an eye out for scams so you can catch them before they catch your hard-earned money.

Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. He has a ongoing suspicion of Nigerian princes. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.