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Imposter scams, online shopping top FTC’s fraud list for 2020

Fraud Complaints to FTC for 2020

Fraudsters were busy in 2020. The Federal Trade Commission received more than 2.2 million complaints about fraud, with people reporting they lost nearly $3.3 billion.

The top fraud of 2020 was imposter scams. The FTC received nearly 500,000 complaints about imposter scams, and people reported $1.2 billion in losses, with a median loss of $850. Government and business imposter scams were also among the top categories of covid-19 and stimulus related reports.

Online shopping and negative reviews was the second most reported fraud category of 2020. More people were shopping online, and then an increase occurred in reports of sellers failing to deliver on their promises. The FTC received more than 350,000 complaints, with people reporting they lost more than $245 million, with a median loss of about $100.

With a sharp increase in the number of reports saying that scammers contacted consumers by text message, phone scams were third on the list. And, many of the text messages were related to the pandemic. Text message scams persuading people to click on links with promises of stimulus relief, economic relief or loans for small businesses, or “waiting packages.”

Here are the FTC’s top 10 fraud categories for 2020:



No. of Reports

% Reporting $ Loss

Total $ Loss in Millions

Median $ Loss


Imposter scams






Online shopping and negative reviews






Prizes, sweepstakes, and lotteries

  29, 323





Internet services






Business and job opportunities






Telephone and mobile services






Health care






Travel, vacations, and timeshare plans






Investment related






Foreign money orders and Fake check scams





If you identify a scam, report it to the FTC at


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Due to the covid 19 pandemic, there are a lot of different scammers. Therefore, I decided to install cell phone tracker on my children's smartphones. With its help, I always know where my children are, their Internet activity and SMS correspondence.

Carol Cassara

I am astonished by how many scams there are, and despite publicity, andlots of it, people still are taken advantage of. Awful.


I find the most annoying are calls about renewing my car's warranty. They don't stop. I know people who get those calls who no longer have a car.


It's just out of control. Consumers need to pay attention, get educated about this, and tell these scammers to go jump in the lake.

I used to feel bad about hanging up on people, especially charities, but now I hang up right away. Except a few times when I want to see what the pitch is so I can write about it.

Laurie Stone

Sigh. There will always be those wanting to take from us. Thanks to your site for helping us navigate through these choppy waters.


It's amazing what people will do to bilk others for money. You have to be so careful. Tip: Don't post your vaccine card on social media.


Working for a bank, it's scary to realize how many people fall for phone scams. If someone tells you to go buy a gift card for any reason at all...DON'T. It's a scam. If someone calls and says they want to put money on your debit card...DON'T give them your debit card number. If some calls and says they are from the police department and there is an outstanding warrant and you need to pay a fine...DON'T give them your debit card number, instead, tell them you will go to the Police department yourself to pay the fine. In fact, DON'T give out any number, (debit, social, account, etc.) to anyone who calls you. They are ALL scammers.


Good advice, Jennifer. DON'T, with capital letters. I was surprised that so many people, 2.2 million, continue to fall for these scams. The patterns, that you've described above, are so clear, and they're used over and over again. As the consumer protection people say, the basic scams are just adapted to what's in the news, the latest being the coronavirus pandemic.

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