Who Gets Scammed the Most?

Quick Answer

Survey responses from 2023 show that 35- to 44-year-olds are most likely to be exposed to and fall victim to scams. However, younger Americans (18 to 24) tend to lose more money.

Mysterious and dark mood image of an female using phone.

Scams are so commonplace that you've almost certainly been a target or know a victim. And from the odd text messages and emails asking you to click on a link to the latest AI-powered scams, there's a lot to watch out for.

To help understand the scope of the threat, we're taking a closer look at who gets scammed the most and the most common types of scams. Knowing what to look for can be helpful on its own, but we'll also share some additional tips for avoiding scams.

What Age Group Gets Scammed the Most?

You might be surprised to learn which age groups are most likely to be scammed. According to the 2023 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report:

  • 35- to 44-year-olds were most likely to be exposed to and lose money from scams.
  • However, median losses were highest for 18- to 24-year-olds at $155 per scam that resulted in a monetary loss.

Scam-related statistics can be tricky to track because not every victim reports that they've fallen for a scam. That might be out of embarrassment, uncertainty of how to report a scam or the belief that reporting the scam won't make a difference.

Even with the limited data, there are some insights available. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) Institute for Marketplace Trust surveys people who submit scam reports to the BBB Scam Tracker. Its annual Scam Tracker Risk Report sheds some light on who gets scammed the most.

Who Gets Scammed the Most by Age
Age Exposed to a Scammer Likelihood of Losing Money From a Scam Median Amount Lost per Scam With a Loss
18-24 6.1% 45.6% $155
25-34 16% 50.1% $130
35-44 20.1% 58.2% $100
45-54 19.8% 57% $100
55-64 18.8% 54.6% $91
65+ 19.2% 44.9% $109

Source: 2023 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report

More People are Losing Money, but Are Losing Less Per Scam

Overall, the BBB found that people are more likely to lose money from scams than in the previous year—52% in 2023 versus 40.7% in 2022. Perhaps this is because many scams now take place entirely online, which tends to lead to losses more often than an in-person or phone-based scam. However, the median losses decreased from $171 in 2022 to $100 in 2023.

The Top 3 Riskiest Scams

The BBB combines its three measures—exposure, susceptibility and monetary losses—to determine which types of scams are riskiest for consumers. For 2023, the BBB reports that the top three were:

  • Investment or cryptocurrency scams
  • Employment scams
  • Online purchase scams

Different Risks for Different Ages

Although 35- to 44-year-olds were most likely to lose money from a scam overall, people in different age groups may be more likely to fall for different types of scams. For example, the BBB found that investment or cryptocurrency scams are the riskiest for people who are 45 and older. But employment scams were the riskiest for 18- to 44-year-olds.

How to Report Scams

You can report scams to the BBB's Scam Tracker and to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Reporting scams is important: It can lead to arrests and result in law enforcement activity that takes down larger criminal groups.

Learn more >> How to Report Identity Theft

What Country Has the Most Victims of Scams?

The 2023 annual Global State of Scams report from the Global Anti-Scam Alliance (GASA) found that 78% of survey respondents had encountered at least one scam during the previous year.

It doesn't break down per-capita or total scam victims, but GASA found that:

  • People from Hong Kong, Brazil and Malaysia were the most likely to encounter a scam.
  • People from Kenya, Brazil and South Africa were the most likely to lose money.
  • The average amount lost was highest in Singapore ($4,031) and Switzerland ($3,767). It was around $2,600 in the United States.

How Much Money Is Lost to Scams Each Year?

Statistics can vary depending on the survey methods, what gets counted as a scam (versus fraud) and whether the amounts include business scams. However, the FTC 2023 Consumer Sentinel Network report found consumers lost over $10 billion to fraud and scams in 2023. Over $4.6 billion was lost from investment scams alone.

What's the Most Common Type of Scam?

According to the BBB report, the top five most common types of scams were:

  1. Online purchase scams: Scammers list an item for sale on an online marketplace or create a website offering products or services. They might collect your money or personal information and never send you anything. Or, they may send you products that they purchase with stolen payment information as part of a triangulation fraud scheme.
  2. Employment scams: Scammers post a fake job listing and use the interview process to collect your personal information. They may also ask you to purchase supplies to steal your money, or send you money and ask you to send back part of the funds—an example of the popular overpayment scam.
  3. Phishing and social engineer scams: A phishing scam often involves the scammer impersonating a company or person to try to trick you into sharing personal information, installing malware or sending them money. They'll often use social engineering—psychological tricks—to make you feel scared and respond quickly. These scams can take many forms, including grandparent scams, romance scams and robocall scams.
  4. Sweepstakes, lottery and prize scams: The scammers use online advertisements, emails, texts or physical mail to tell people they've won something or are in a drawing. The victims will then be asked to share personal information or send a payment to claim their prize or increase their chances of winning.
  5. Counterfeit product scams: Similar to online purchase scams, but the scammers send victims a low-quality knockoff. These scams can be dangerous if the scammer is selling counterfeit medication or medical supplies.

Some of the self-reported BBB scam results also align with the FTC's 2023 Consumer Sentinel Network report. The FTC uses different categories and includes scams and fraud reports, but its top five were imposter scams; online shopping and negative reviews; prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries; investment-related scams; and business and job opportunity scams.

Learn more >> The 10 Most Common Types of Fraud

How to Avoid Scams

Scammers are constantly looking for new tactics and angles for their scams, and protecting yourself can require an equal amount of attention and vigilance. However, a few basic practices can help protect you from many common types of scams.

  1. Don't trust people who contact you out of the blue. Scammers can make phone calls and emails look like they're coming from someone else. It's best not to trust an unexpected message from someone who claims to work for the federal government or a large company, especially if they claim you're in trouble, owe money or ask for your personal or account information.
  2. Respond using contact information that you find on your own. If you think there's a chance the message is legitimate, look up the organization's contact information on your own. Use the number, email or chat tool you find through official channels to confirm that someone from the organization is actually looking for you.
  3. Avoid clicking on links and attachments. Don't click on links or download attachments from your email, text messages or direct messages unless you're certain you know the sender. Scammers sometimes take over social media accounts, so don't be afraid to ask a few probing questions if something seems amiss.
  4. Pay attention to how someone asks you to send money. Scammers might ask you to send a payment with a gift card, prepaid card, cryptocurrency, wire transfer or to use a peer-to-peer payment app. It can be difficult—and sometimes impossible—to reverse a fraudulent transaction involving one of these payment types. Instead, try to use a safer payment method, such as a debit card, and walk away if the other person insists that won't work.
  5. Consider if something seems too good to be true. Try not to get wrapped up in the excitement of winning a prize or getting a great deal. Pause for a few minutes and think about whether the situation seems too good to be true. Chances are, if it does, it's actually a scam.

You can also search to see if anyone else has reported a scam that sounds similar to your situation. And continue learning about scams to stay ahead of the latest trends and tactics.

Monitor Your Credit and Identity

Avoiding a scam in the first place is the best approach. But monitoring your credit reports can also be important as you'll be able to see if scammers use your personal information to apply for or open new credit accounts. You can get free credit monitoring from Experian with real-time alerts and FICO® Score tracking.

For additional alerts and protections, a paid premium membership includes monitoring of other databases and the dark web for your information. It can also warn you about changes in non-credit financial accounts, such as your bank accounts, and comes with identity theft insurance.