When you think of a victim of financial fraud, you probably imagine an aging woman or man home alone, giving out their credit card information to a stranger on the phone.

But according to a new report from the Federal Trade Commission, in 2018, people 60 and older were 20 percent less likely than younger adults to report losing money to fraud.

However, when seniors fall victim to a scam, their losses were higher. People 80 and older lost the most, reporting a median individual loss of $1,700, which was more than four times the median losses of consumers in their 20s and 30s, and more than two to three times higher than in other age groups.

The FTC collects and analyzes consumer report information through an online database called the Consumer Sentinel Network. Law enforcement agencies and other organizations contribute consumer reports to the database, which is searchable by criteria such as the type of fraud. Last year, consumers reported nearly 3.1 million cases of fraud, according to the FTC.

Here are the median individual losses to fraud last year by age, according to the FTC report:

Ages 20-29: $400

Ages 30-39: $385

Ages 40-49: $455

Ages 50-59: $508

Ages 60-69: $600

Ages 70-79: $769

Ages 80 and older: $1,700

Seniors were scammed the most by tech support scams. Online fraud came in second. Older adults were 371 percent more likely to report losing money on this type of scam than younger consumers, the FTC said. The aggregate amount older consumers reported losing on tech support scams in 2018 was nearly $21 million.

The FTC provides advice in this guide: How to Spot, Avoid and Report Tech Support Scams.

Fraudsters are getting to older adults most often by calling them. In fact, seniors were four times more likely than other consumers to be contacted by phone.

“This high rate of phone fraud reporting was driven largely by reported calls from government impostors, particularly Social Security Administration impostors,” the FTC report said. “In numerous instances, the scammers contacted the consumers daily, building relationships and creating trust. Frequently, large money losses occurred through multiple contacts over the course of weeks or months.”


In 2018, older adults most often reported paying fraudsters with a credit card, gift or reload card, or wire transfer, according to the FTC. But the number of older adults who said they paid with a gift or reloadable cards is on the rise.

“During the course of 2018, the number of older adults who said they paid with gift cards or reload cards increased dramatically,” the FTC wrote in its report. “In fact, during the second half of 2018 (and continuing into 2019), gift and reload cards were the most frequently reported payment method by older adults, even for tech support scams. This is a concerning trend as gift and reload cards offer virtually no fraud protections for consumers. Credit cards offer the strongest fraud protections for consumers.”

What’s particularly sad about victimizing seniors is how it leaves them feeling.

“Many reported feeling a loss to their self-image as competent people with a lifetime of experience that would help them avoid being fooled,” the FTC said. “Some reported seeing this as proof that they were now too old to be handling their own money.”

Your Thoughts

If you were a victim of a scam, how have you dealt with the loss? What made you believe the scammer? Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Scammed.”

Retirement Rants and Raves

I’m interested in your experiences or concerns about retirement or aging. What do you like about retirement? What came as a surprise?

If you haven’t retired yet, what concerns you financially?

You can rant or rave. This space is yours. It’s a chance for you to express what’s on your mind. Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Retirement Rants and Raves.”

Last week’s topic was about Medicare open enrollment, which has started and ends Dec. 7.


I invited readers to share their thoughts on the open enrollment process.

Noreene Sweeney of Lancaster, Pa., wrote, “I spend many hours researching for myself, my husband and friends each year. For anyone comparing plans, I would say enter your drug(s), no matter how much you don’t want to do it. My husband takes 20 plus [medications] and I hate typing in all those names, dosages, etc. But the difference is incredible; just one of his drugs could cost us $50,000 per year without any insurance. I can find only one plan where the co-pay is reasonable (under $75 a month), so of course that’s the plan we will stick with. The formulary is everything, so do the homework and compare, compare, compare.”

“I’m still in phase one of my review process,” wrote Angie Green of Clinton, Md. “So far, it annoys me in a major way that I cannot get access to the Medicare Plan Finder on my iPad. It opens the tab and then just stops there with a blank page. Medicare should provide a solution to this problem so that those of us with [older] devices can get access.”

Robert Guth of Goshen, Ind., doesn’t like the new Medicare Part D comparison tool. “There are two reasons,” he said. “One, I am unable to rank plans by total costs, just by monthly premium or by drug charts. Total cost is the sum of the two and must both be considered. Two, the drug costs are not accurate. I entered some Tier 1 and Tier 2 drugs, and the standard drugstore cost is provided, but the preferred drugstore price is not used, so the cheapest plan is not correct if I plan to use a preferred store. My cheapest plan was several plans lower on the list, which I determined by comparing the actual formulary and the statement of changes. I am a retired health actuary, so I have enough experience to calculate this carefully.”

Last week, one reader suggested laminating your Medicare card to protect it from wear and tear. But others pointed out that Medicare discourages lamination of your card. I could not find any such warning on the official Medicare.gov website; however, the Social Security Administration discourages people from laminating their Social Security card because it prevents detection of many security features.

Here’s a suggestion from one reader to protect your paper Medicare card. “I got 10 plastic credit card size sleeves for $6 online that work perfectly,” Karen wrote.

At Medicare.gov, read: 5 things to know about your Medicare card, including how to replace it should it become damaged or lost.

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