Washingtonians lost $250M to scammers in 2023

Identity theft, imposter scams and phony online ads were the most common schemes, a new study says.

Scammers, fraudsters and phonies bilked Washington residents out of a quarter-billion dollars last year, according to a new report.

The study by QR code generator, QRFY, looked at the 53,269 complaints state residents submitted to the Federal Trade Commission in 2023.

That’s roughly $3.2 million in lost funds per 100,000 residents.

In all, nearly $250 million was lost to fraudsters in 2023, the report said.

“As scammers continue to employ ever more inventive tactics to get hold of your finances, it’s possible for people of any age to fall victim to fraud,” a QRFY spokesperson said in a statement.

Imposter scams, in which someone tricks you into sending money, were the most common ruse, accounting for more than one in five scams, the report said.

Identity theft took second place.

If you suspect you’re a victim of fraud, report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

10 most common frauds in the state by complaints filed with the FTC.

1. Imposter scams 19,923 cases, or 22%: When someone tricks you into sending money. Posing as a legitimate authority, scammers will often ask victims to wire transfer money or buy gift cards for them. To help prevent this type of fraud, don’t provide personal information over the phone to people you don’t know, even if they seem legitimate.

2. Identity theft 12,582 cases, or 14%: Fraud that involves someone using your personal or financial information without your permission. Warning signs include bills for items you did not purchase or information on your credit report that you don’t recognize.

3. Online shopping and negative reviews 7,764 cases, or 9%: Consumers are often lured in with fake ads on social media. Many report placing an order and then never receiving the item. Review fraud can include merchants posting fake positive reviews or even paying for positive reviews, which deceive buyers looking for real feedback.

4. Banks and lenders 4,463 cases, or 5%: Phony lender-related frauds that are aimed at obtaining personal or financial information, such as your Social Security number or credit card number, or charging exorbitant rates or hidden fees.

5. Credit bureaus, information providers and report user scams 4,138 cases, or 5%: Information providers report consumer information to consumer reporting agencies, such as check verification services, credit bureaus and tenant screening companies. Scams in this category refer to false, inaccurate or incomplete information reporting.

6. Prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries 3,543 cases, or 4%: These scammers will contact you saying you’ve won a prize or lottery jackpot. Beware of these fraudsters who will ask you to first make a payment to get your prize.

7. Auto-related 2,915 cases, or 3%: Fraudsters will often advertise cars for sale at unbelievably low prices. Auto warranty scammers will try to convince you that your auto warranty or insurance is about to expire and try to obtain personal and financial information.

8. Internet services 2,456 cases, or 3%: Phone calls, recorded messages or text messages offering an opportunity to reduce your monthly payments. These scammers will usually request you must make a “prepayment” toward your bill to be eligible for the offer.

9. Privacy, data security, and cyber threats 2,371 cases, or 3%: Illegally acquiring or holding sensitive information from a person or business for ransom. To protect against these threats, experts recommend antivirus or malware protection software and using unique passwords for all your accounts.

10. Health care 2,300 cases, or 3%: Scams may involve someone trying to sell you health insurance or prescription drugs at a cheaper rate. They may also try to charge you fees to navigate the health insurance marketplace, a service provided for free by law. Verify any organization claiming to offer health care benefits before you sign up.

Janice Podsada: 425-339-3097; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @JanicePods.

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