Scams are the policy problem no one is talking about

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According to a recent Gallup poll, 8% of American adults, or 21 million Americans, have been scammed in the past year. To put that number into perspective, 21 million people is roughly the entire population of Florida. Every year!

A recent report from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimated that losses from fraud range from $21 billion to $137 billion annually, and the report called lower numbers “very conservative.” Says.

If fraud accounted for $137 billion a year, that would be more than the annual revenue of companies like Verizon, Comcast, Met, and Target. It would also exceed the Department of Homeland Security's total annual budget of $134 billion in 2023.

According to a poll, 57% of Americans are worried about getting scammed, making fraud the second-highest crime concern in America. (St. Petersburg)

According to a recent AARP poll, two-thirds of Americans believe fraud has reached a “crisis level.”

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It's clear that fraud is a huge problem. They affect Americans across the socioeconomic chain, often disproportionately impacting people without college degrees and with annual household incomes of less than $50,000, according to Gallup.

A Gallup poll also found that 57% of Americans are worried about being scammed, making it the second-highest crime concern in America after identity theft.

Also, keep in mind that fraud is a public health issue in addition to being a financial crime. Victims often experience significant mental and health problems in the aftermath of the scam.

Fraudsters are using more advanced technology and their targets are more diverse. According to FBI data, four of his scams stand out from the rest: investment, tech support/call center, business email fraud, and trust/romance fraud. Fraud in each of these areas is on the rise and has different targets.

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The rise of cryptocurrencies has led to a significant increase in investment fraud, which is now the most expensive scam reported to the FBI.

According to the FBI, technical support and “call center” scams are most effective at targeting the elderly and are primarily carried out by organized crime groups in India.

Business email compromises are prevalent among small and medium-sized businesses.

Trust and romance scams, such as “grandparent scams,” where scammers impersonate a loved one in need, are also on the rise.

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The FBI is reporting a growing wave of “sextortion” in which scammers posing as teenage girls ask boys for nude photos and then demand them. He demanded money and threatened to share the boy's photo with his social media followers if he did not pay. U.S. officials say the perpetrators of these scams are based in Nigeria. In fact, most fraud against U.S. citizens is perpetrated by foreign organized crime organizations.

Despite a sharp increase in fraudulent attacks against Americans by foreign nationals, state and federal authorities have yet to develop a plan to address this important policy issue.

Meanwhile, the UK government announced a major fraud initiative in May 2023. And the UK recently signed the world's first 'Online Fraud Charter' with 12 of the world's biggest technology companies, agreeing to voluntarily take 39 actions to combat fraud, including blocking. Increased reporting, enforcement and other measures to combat internet-based fraud.

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The UK's approach includes public-private collaboration, as well as a whole-of-government approach to tackling the issue. The United States should adopt a similar model and establish a White House-led interagency task force focused on combating fraud. Governments need to establish clear mandates and metrics.

Additionally, Congress should authorize a federal advisory committee to work with industry partners to develop a US version of the UK strategy.

The U.S. government’s response to fraud must be a top priority in 2024. If fraud continues unchecked, the wave of fraud fueled by artificial intelligence could continue to grow out of control. If we don't act soon, many more lives will be ruined.


David Mansdorfer is a former assistant secretary of health and director of the Stop Scams Alliance.

Ken Westbrook is a former director of information sharing in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and co-CEO of the Stop Scams Alliance.