Scammers raked in $1.3B from impersonation scams in 2023, FBI says

3/12/24 Sean Sabin, Axios

Americans lost roughly $1.3 billion in 2023 to scammers pretending to be from the government or tech support, according to new FBI data.

Why it matters: Record-breaking profits motivate fraudsters to double down on their schemes.

How it works: Scammers pretend to be a government official, tech support agent or customer service representative to trick people into sending money or other sensitive information their way.

  • These impersonators typically call with fake stories that would motivate someone to share their private identifiable details with them.
  • For example, a scammer might call to say someone will lose their Medicare benefits if they don’t pay a new fee. Or they might claim there’s a virus on their computer that requires the victim to buy a special tool.

By the numbers: U.S. adults’ losses from tech support and government impersonation scams have grown more than sevenfold since 2019, according to the FBI’s annual internet crime report, released last week.

  • In 2019, the FBI received 27,506 complaints of government and tech support impersonation scams, resulting in $178.3 million in losses.
  • By 2023, those losses had topped $1.3 billion from 51,750 reports.

Zoom in: Tech support scams — where a fraudster attempts to make victims believe they have a virus on their computer — have skyrocketed over the last five years.

  • Between 2019 and 2023, the number of tech support impersonation complaints nearly tripled, growing from 13,633 to 37,560.
  • Older people, or those over 60, accounted for more than half of losses to tech support scams in 2023, per the FBI report.

Yes, but: These numbers are based only on the cases that victims reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

The big picture: Impersonation scams have become easier due both to the growing availability of generative AI tools and the popularity of remote work.

  • Scammers can now replicate someone’s voice with as little as a three-second clip, according to McAfee.
  • Loneliness and isolation have made people more susceptible to calls from scammers.
  • Between the lines: Impersonation scams have evolved from cold-calling telemarketing scams to online operations to lure people in.
  • Many tech support scams now start as a web pop-up advertisement, according to Sophos and the Federal Trade Commission.
  • The intrigue: People of all ages are susceptible to scams — not just the elderly.
  • Only 40% of people who fell for tech support scams reported to be over 60, according to the FBI.
  • Even New York Magazine’s personal finance columnist fell for a customer support scam where she put $50,000 into a shoebox and handed it off to someone in an unmarked vehicle.

The bottom line: Be on high alert for imposters.

  • The government will never call, email, text or send a social media message to ask for money, the FTC says.
  • Be wary of anyone who calls randomly with a supposedly urgent financial need — especially if they ask you to buy a gift card or to transfer cryptocurrencies.


The mission at FAST is to increase public awareness of financial exploitation with the goal of mitigating risk of exploitation and protecting our state’s vulnerable populations.

Man sitting at computer, while thief picks his back pocket
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