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The No. 1 way scammers defrauded Americans in 2018

FTC: Consumers lost $1.4B to fraud last year
Internet scam
Posted at 6:15 AM, Mar 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-05 08:56:36-05

BALTIMORE — Out of the three million consumer complaints submitted to the Federal Trade Commission in 2018, imposter scams took the top spot.

Consumers reported losing $488 million to all types of imposter scams, with a reported median loss of $500.

Unfortunately, Susan Mayorga's mother lost way more. Last year, she sent $15,000 to someone in Baltimore claiming to be her granddaughter and needing money to get out of jail.

"Saying, 'Grandma help me, I'm in trouble,'" said Mayorga. "[She] ran to the bank, ran to UPS, and sent overnight $10,000." That was one of two payments. Mayorga tried to call UPS to stop the delivery but was too late.

READ MORE: Grandmother duped into sending $15,000 to vacant Baltimore home

While the "grandparent scam" is popular, government scams made up nearly half of the 535,417 imposter scams reported to the FTC in 2018. These include fraudsters posing as the IRS or Social Security Administration demanding money or deceiving people into revealing their Social Security numbers by saying their number has been deactivated. The FTC said Social Security numbers are never suspended and the Social Security Administration will never require you to pay to obtain one. The FTC's advice is to ignore these calls and then let them know.

In total, consumers said they lost nearly $1.48 billion in fraud in 2018, up 38 percent than the previous year. Debt collection complaints dropped to second place after claiming the top spot the last three years. Identity theft was the third most common complaint.

In Maryland, identity theft reports were the most common, narrowly beating out imposter scams. Marylanders reported losing a total of $18.2 million to fraud in 2018 with a median loss of $350.

Marion Winik thought she knew better, but in an effort to reverse a fake iTunes charges, she ended up losing $100 to a scammer.

"Eventually, I drove to CVS with them on my cellphone, bought an iTunes card, and they told me to scratch and read the number to them and I did," Winik said. "About one second after I hung up, I realized there is no way this is Apple and I'm not getting any money back, and I just gave them $100."

RELATED: Local professor avoids one scam, falls for another

Another surprising but consistent finding was that for the second year in a row, people in their twenties were scammed more than those in their seventies. However, the older age group ended up losing hundreds more; $750 compared to $400.

The FTC wants you to tell them if you fall for a scam. Your report goes into a database that law enforcement agencies can access. They can use that information to research cases, identify victims, and even track possible targets.

To report a complaint, click here.

And if you have a Matter for Mallory, she wants to hear from you. You can email her at or use the form below.