Two-thirds of adults in the United States believe fraud has hit a crisis level, according to a new AARP Fraud Watch Network report.
The report also highlights the methods criminals use to steal money, such as cryptocurrency, gift cards and peer-to-peer payment apps. The findings suggest the need for Americans to share what they know about scams with their friends and family.
“Financial predators use a playbook to get us into a heightened emotional state,” said Kathy Stokes, AARP director of fraud prevention programs. “They know it’s hard to access our logical thinking when we are panicked, excited or scared. But knowing about specific scams makes it far less likely that we will engage with them.”
Criminals often turn to atypical payment options in their scams like gift cards, peer-to-peer payment apps and cryptocurrency, because these forms of payment are processed quickly and cannot be reversed.
The AARP report showed one third of adults do not know it is a scam when someone directs you to use a cryptocurrency ATM to address some financial concern. In 2022 alone, the FBI says reported losses from fraud involving cryptocurrency reached $2.57 billion, a 183 percent increase from the previous year.
Gift cards also continue to be a common tool for criminals. About 25 percent of adults reported being unaware that being asked to make a payment or send money by gift card is a scam. A separate AARP report looking at the victim experience with gift card-related fraud emphasizes the emotional cost of these crimes in addition to the financial cost. Focus group participants felt there is little empathy for a crime that stole a reported $228 million from consumers in 2022 (FTC).
Peer-to-peer apps like Venmo, Zelle and CashApp are also used in scams. These apps do not offer consumers the same level of fraud protection as credit cards, but our research showed that 63 percent of adults are not aware of this distinction. These types of apps should be used as they are intended to provide payment to a known and trusted contact.
Fraud is a severely under reported crime, even as nearly nine in 10 adults feel people should report incidents, the report said. Nearly 40 percent of Americans still don’t understand that victims do not lose money to scams because they are gullible.
Victimization from a scam can happen to anyone. Such language subtly blames the victim, underscoring the need for society to shift how we talk about victimization. Previous AARP research found that placing the blame for fraud on the criminal and not on the victim could lead to more reporting of these crimes and could ultimately lead to more law enforcement action to combat the fraud epidemic.
To read the full report visit Americans Are Aware of Fraud But Remain Vulnerable (aarp.org)
The AARP Fraud Watch Network is a free resource that equips consumers with up-to-date knowledge to spot and avoid scams, and connects those targeted by scams with our fraud helpline specialists who provide support and guidance on what to do next. Anyone can call the helpline at 877-908-3360.
The Fraud Watch Network also offers free, facilitated peer discussion groups that seek to provide emotional support for those experiencing fraud; and advocates at the federal, state, and local levels to enact policy changes that protect consumers and enforce laws.