50% of Americans Expect to Lose Money to Scammers This Year
Half of all U.S. adults believe it is at least somewhat likely that they will suffer a financial loss this year from identity theft, according to a report from the American Institute of CPAs. In fact, 10% believe it is very or extremely likely.
Harris Poll surveyed 1,005 Americans and found 21% have already been the victims of identity theft or attempted theft.
Fortunately, Americans are increasingly aware of cybercrime, and 93% of those who had been attacked took immediate action. 72% contacted their payment card company to set up additional protections, and half started using cash or checks more often. Victims also eliminated or decreased online financial transactions (46%), put a freeze on their credit report (29%) or began using alternative currencies like Bitcoin (10%).
“There are basic steps people can take right now, before identity theft causes a financial nightmare. Securing your personal information and only providing your social security number when it is absolutely necessary are easy steps to take,” said Gregory Anton, CPA, CGMA, chair of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission.
The survey also found the majority of investment fraud is currently going unreported. Nearly 60% of investment fraud victims did not report the crime to authorities. Of those who didn’t, 41% did not report it because they blamed themselves, 27% said they knew the fraudster and 25% said they did not know whom to contact. Nearly one in five did not report the crime because they were embarrassed.
“Americans who are victimized by investment fraud or identity theft should alert the proper authorities, regardless of the circumstances,” added Anton. “By reporting the crimes, they are increasing the chance that the scammers will be brought to justice and reducing the risk that they will target others in the future.”
Nearly 20% of Americans have been the victims of investment fraud, including Ponzi or pyramid schemes (6%), fraudulent IRS tax returns or refunds, unrealistically high investment return promises, collectibles (4% each) and email requests for money (3%).
“There are a variety of different investment frauds schemes that have the potential to cause major financial harm,” says Anton. “A basic rule for any investment is that if it seems too good to be true – it probably is.”