Surveys Compared


People may be unaware or reluctant to admit that they have been defrauded, so survey results are often plagued by underreporting. Even when groups of known fraud victims (drawn from police lists) are surveyed, many do not respond that they have been scammed in the past.


  • A 2003 study by AARP found that 18% of the general public said they had been scammed in the past three years. The same study found that known victims underreported their losses: only half of known lottery scam victims and 27% of known investment fraud victims admitted to having been defrauded.

Off the Hook: Reducing Participation in Telemarketing Fraud, AARP, 2003

  • A random-sample phone survey in 1991 found that 15% of respondents had lost money to a fraud in the previous year.

Victimization of Persons by Fraud, Titus et al., 1995

  • In 2005, 11% of respondents to a UN survey in 30 countries reported that they had been “cheated […] in terms of quantity or quality of […] goods or services” in the previous year. This description includes cheating and dishonest business practices as well as fraud, in which no service or product was ever intended to be provided.

Criminal Victimisation in International Perspective, van Dijk et al., 2007

  • 13.5% of American adults fell for a scam in 2004, according to estimates from the Federal Trade Commission. These frauds amounted to 48.7 million instances of fraud among 30.2 million people (some experienced multiple frauds).

Consumer Fraud in the United States: The Second FTC Survey, FTC, 2007

  • Of the 1.3 million consumer complaints filed by the Consumer Sentinel Network between 2005-09, 54% (over 720,000) were fraud complaints. Reported losses exceeded $1.7 trillion (87% of complaints included the amount lost).

Consumer Sentinel Data Book, FTC, 2010

  • Consumers who admitted to having been defrauded within the previous year (2004-05) reported paying a median amount of $60. The same report estimated that there were over 48 million instances of fraud in the same year, yielding a very rough estimate of nearly $3 billion lost.

Consumer Fraud in the United States: The Second FTC Survey, FTC, 2007

  • The FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network recorded a total of $1.7 billion lost to fraud in 2009, with a median loss of $399.

Consumer Sentinel Data Book, FTC, 2010