Cybersecurity, Emerging Issues in Security, Management and Finances

FTC: Consumers Lost Over $5.8B to Fraud Last Year, Marking 70% Jump

Newly released Federal Trade Commission data shows that American consumers reported losing more than $5.8 billion to fraud in 2021, an increase of more than 70% over the previous year.

The FTC received fraud reports from more than 2.8 million consumers last year, with the most commonly reported category once again being imposter scams, followed by online shopping scams.

Prizes, sweepstakes, and lotteries; internet services; and business and job opportunities rounded out the top five fraud categories.

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.

The FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network (Sentinel) is a database that receives reports directly from consumers, as well as from federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, the Better Business Bureau, industry members, and non-profit organizations. Twenty-five states now contribute to Sentinel. Reports from around the country about consumer protection issues are a key resource for FTC investigations that stop illegal activities and, when possible, provide refunds to consumers.

Sentinel received more than 5.7 million reports in 2021; these include the fraud reports detailed above, as well as identity theft reports and complaints related to 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.

The FTC uses the reports it receives through Sentinel as the starting point for many of its law enforcement investigations, and the agency also shares these reports with approximately 2,800 federal, state, local, and international law enforcement professionals. While the FTC does not intervene in individual complaints, Sentinel reports are a vital part of the agency’s law enforcement mission.

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 number of categories, including by state and metropolitan area.