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Consumer Fraud in The United States

A look at the rates of fraud in America by the number incidents, products and demographics.

consumer fraud infographic full

Have you ever bought a revolutionary weight-loss product only to put on 5 pounds while using it? Maybe you signed up for a work-from-home opportunity that would allow you to make $5,000 or more every month, only to receive a list of job ads printed from a craigslist.com site?

If you fell victim to either of these cons, or to any of the millions of other scams conducted across the United States last year, don’t feel bad: You’re far from alone.

U.S. Consumer Fraud

Scamming U.S. consumers is big business for a lot of people. Just look at how famous the website FreeCreditReport.com has become: We all know those floppy-haired band mates singing about the financial woes they’ve suffered because they never did order their free credit reports. Turns out, those singers may be cute, but they’re not exactly honest. Several state agencies are suing FreeCreditReport.com because the “free” credit reports only come when consumers sign up for a decidedly not-free credit-monitoring service, proving that scams aren’t only run by shady characters hovering in front of computer screens in darkened basements.

FTC Fighting Fraud

The Federal Trade Commission recently released its annual list of the top types of consumer fraud complaints in the United States. Topping the list, to no one’s surprise, was the category of weight-loss products. The FTC registered more than 8 million cases of consumer fraud stemming from weight-loss products that didn’t work as advertised. No wonder Americans keep getting heavier!

Coming in second was the category of business opportunity scams. These largely take the form of work-from-home “opportunities” that amount to nothing. The FTC says U.S. consumers were the victim of more than 6 million business opportunity scams in 2009.

Rounding out the top five were buyers’ club, foreign lottery and credit-card insurance scams.

Who Are The Victims?

The lesson here? Don’t trust most of what you see on the Internet. All of these scams are made infinitely easier by the power of the Internet. It makes you wonder how the hard-working scam artists of the world ever survived without the Web.

There’s another lesson from the FTC, too: It isn’t just the elderly or the young being scammed. It’s everyone.

The FTC reported that people over the age of 75 made up 5.6 percent of the consumer-fraud cases last year. People 65-74 made up 10.4 percent of all cases, while those in the 55-64 range and 45-54 range made up 11 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively.