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Personal data used by scammers to target American seniors

May 2024 by Incogni

Fraudsters pose a threat to people living across the US, with older, vulnerable consumers losing a record $3.4bn in total last year, an increase of 11% in 2022, while the number of complaints also rose by 15% to 101,068. Incogni’s unique research reveals that most losses reported resulted from fraudsters gaining access to victims’ personal information.

Incogni’s research identified that 12 of the 30 crimes categorised by the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a division of the FBI, are data facilitated by fraudsters gaining access to personal information online, such as that held by data brokers. This includes identity theft, phishing, or personal data breaches.

More than half (57.1%) of the crimes reported last year were facilitated or exacerbated by the availability of victims’ personal data online. The losses from these crimes amounted to $2.99B, 87% of the total losses, with tech support scams being the most prevalent—17,700 such complaints were reported among the over 60s, who together lost $598.9m.

One of the reasons for the total increase in losses is the rise in investment-related scams, which have soared (+507%) among the over 60s since 2020. In 2023, victims lost $1.24bn to investment fraud, with an average loss of $193k per complainant.

The rise of new cryptocurrencies has provided further opportunities for fraudsters to steal large sums of money from older Americans, with victims losing an average of $97,400 to these crimes.

The over 60s in the US are also being targeted with confidence and romance scams, in which fraudsters prey on feelings of loneliness and people’s desire to find love. These types of scams led to losses of $356.9m last year.

State-to-state breakdown

The US average for over 60s was $33,900, which was down marginally (-3.1%) from the $35,100 figure for 2022.

The highest average loss experienced per victim was in Hawaii ($61,734), followed by the District of Columbia ($57,544) and California ($55,346).

Darius Belejevas, Head of Incogni, comments: ”People of all ages are potentially vulnerable to cybercrime, but the threat is particularly acute for seniors who didn’t grow up as digital natives.

“These latest figures are extremely alarming and show how older people living in the US are being deliberately targeted by fraudsters looking to exploit their personal information.

“Unfortunately, the problem has got steadily worse in recent years. Elderly victims are losing greater sums of money each year to the criminals behind these sophisticated phishing scams and acts of fraud.

“Immediate action is needed to prevent the rising tide of cybercrime in the US and protect the most vulnerable Americans.

“Preventing access to people’s personal data online, information that is often held by data brokers is one of the most important steps to improving consumer privacy.

“Individuals can take back control of their own data by using a service like Incogni, which will systematically request that data brokers delete and do not sell on people’s personal data.

“However, no single group or organisation can tackle this issue alone - it requires the Government, regulators, law enforcement agencies, and businesses to work together in a cohesive and coherent manner.

“A coordinated and strategic approach is the only way to solve this problem and to help reduce the risks posed to consumers and to protect the most vulnerable people in our society.”


Incogni’s researchers examined the Annual Reports and Elder Fraud Reports published by the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a division of the FBI, looking for details regarding internet crimes against people over the age of 60. This information was collected from people reporting such crimes to the IC3. From these reports, the researchers aggregated yearly losses and complaint counts per crime type. This was also supplemented with 2023 data concerning state-level information.
Using the information gathered, Incogni’s researchers explored trends in complaint counts and amounts lost on a per crime basis. They took particular note of crimes that may be exacerbated by personal information being available through people search sites and other data brokers.

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