Imposters Drove Feverish Growth in Scams Last Year

If anyone is writing an updated A Journal of the Plague Year, they should be sure to take note of the alarming 70% growth in consumer dollars lost to fraud in 2021.

Whether it was because consumers were quarantined at home – or scam artists were – fraud complaints went viral in 2021. Newly released Federal Trade Commission data shows that consumers reported losing more than $5.8 billion to fraud in 2021, with imposter scams and online shopping fraud driving the increase.

The FTC received fraud reports from more than 2.8 million consumers last year. They shook out in roughly this order:

  • Imposter scams;
  • Online shopping scams;
  • Prizes, sweepstakes, lotteries;
  • Internet services; and
  • Business and job opportunities.

Of the losses reported by consumers, more than $2.3 billion of losses reported last year were due to imposter scams — up from $1.2 billion in 2020, while online shopping accounted for about $392 million in reported losses from consumers — up from $246 million in 2020.

Besides the top five, the FTC also received massive numbers of complaints about identity theft reports and other consumer issues, such as problems with credit bureaus and banks and lenders. In 2021, there were nearly 1.4 million reports of identity theft received by the FTC.

A full breakdown of reports received in 2021 is now available on the FTC’s data analysis site at ftc.gov/exploredata. The data dashboards there break down the reports across a numbers of categories, including by state and metropolitan area, as well as exploring a number of subcategories of fraud reports.