What does scamming look like in 2023, and how many Americans fall victim to it? More than one might imagine. A new study revealed that 55 percent of Americans have been scammed, and nearly one-third report falling victim to a scam in the past year. From online shopping scams and identity theft to phishing scams and wire fraud, Americans seem to face scamming attempts in multiple aspects of their digital interactions. With more people working online, shopping online, and trying to turn their online hustle into a side income, Americans are sharing a greater amount of financial information with a variety of sources that may or may not be legitimate and fortified against cyber attacks.
There’s a growing consensus among 90 percent of those surveyed that scams are becoming more sophisticated and, in turn, more difficult to identify, especially online. The biggest fear when facing the anonymity of online scams is money loss. The nationwide survey found that 1 in 3 scam victims reported losing money to a scam in the three years, with an average financial loss of $1,500 from a scam. Research found that the top scams people lose money in are online shopping scams, identity theft, and credit card scams. But as instances of online fraud seem to be on the rise, many Americans never report it to authorities.
In fact, 39 percent of those who have fallen victim to a scam say they didn’t report it. Why? Many said they didn’t feel their loss was substantial enough to warrant an official report, others were unsure how to go about reporting the scam, and some admitted to feeling too embarrassed to say anything to authorities.
While many Americans do take steps to avoid and dodge scam and identity fraud attempts by doing things like scrutinizing emails and messages, using enhanced password security, and regularly monitoring their bank and credit card statements, others admittedly leave their accounts digitally vulnerable. Three-quarters of people change their banking passwords at least once a year, but more than one in 10 admit to having the same password for over five years. Similarly, 17 percent don’t use safety features like two-factor authentication on their financial accounts, leaving themselves more susceptible to hacking.
But even if people exercise greater caution with their online interactions to avoid more obvious scams and scrutinize suspicious digital contact, there’s one thing the majority of people are wary of — cybersecurity breaches that can lead to the loss of personal information.
Despite people focusing their attention on email phishing scams, bolstering their financial accounts from hackers, and trying to suss out other online scams, many forget tax season is ripe with scams taxpayers need to be on the lookout for. Tax preparer scams involve fraudsters charging inflated fees, impersonating tax preparers, and sometimes skimming tax returns.
Across the county, Americans are reporting fraud and identity theft to local authorities. States like Georgia, Delaware, and Nevada had more than 1,500 reported cases of fraud and identity theft, per 100,000 residents in 2022, the highest concentration of reports in the nation.
Categorically, the top five types of fraud Americans faced in 2022 were imposter scams, online shopping scams and negative reviews, fraudulent prizes or sweepstakes, fake internet services, and phony investment schemes. Imposter scams alone totaled more than $2.7 billion lost across 761,600 reports to authorities. While there were fewer reports of investment-related schemes relative to imposter scams, the financial loss was far greater. Across 107,205 reported investment schemes, Americans lost a reported $3.9 billion.