Scam Watch

Do You Live in One of the Most Scammed States in the U.S.?

Based on official Federal Trade Commission (FTC) data, 2023 is shaping up to be a brutal year for financial scams. The 30% increase in fraud will hit these 10 states hardest…

Photo by KeepCoding

Photo by KeepCoding

From Birch Gold Group

Forbes recently compiled a list of the most scammed states in America, and the results are less than thrilling. We don't just say that because they ranked California first and the only state with 100 on a 100-point index…

As the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report notes, the scams themselves are as varied as ever, with some notable changes.

First off, financial scams are on the rise by some margin. Americans were defrauded of $8.8 billion in 2022, a more-than-30% increase from the year before. Scammers making use of a recession, or perhaps more people turning to fraud due to it? We'll let you be the judge.

Criminals are always early and enthusiastic adopters of new technologies, and AI is now often used to create the kind of convincing imagery scammers could only hope for a few years back.

While they make up a large percentage in terms of sums of money defrauded, cryptocurrencies weren't even in the top three payment methods used to commit scams. Based on the number of reports, credit cards, payment apps and bank transfers were all more prevalent, much to the dismay of crypto detractors. (On the other hand, maybe the permanent, public record associated with crypto transactions, the delight of law enforcement, has dented the popularity of pay-with-crypto scams?)

There is also a bit of interpretation when it comes to which state is the "worst" based on how Forbes analyzed the FTC data. For example, while California occupies the #1 spot on the list, it has roughly half as many reports per resident compared to Georgia. Relative to population, California should be #18 on the Forbes list. So why did the Sunshine State win the Forbes title of “Fraud Capital of the U.S.” do you think? Maybe there was just a little bias here? Tough times for the most populous (and wealthiest) state in the union!

Anyway, here are the 10 most-scammed states in the order Forbes report presented them, along with some choice details (and no more griping about anti-California bias).

#1 California

  • Ranking relative to population: #18
  • Median loss: $700 per victim
  • Total loss: $249 million

With 47,000 total reports, California had the single highest total number of fraud complaints. Yes, that’s a silly metric, considering California also has the largest population by 30%. Imposter scams were the top complaint in California (36% of total).

#2 Florida

  • Ranking relative to population: #4
  • Median loss: $620 per victim
  • Total loss: $99.9 million

Florida ranked third in terms of total dollars lost by scam victims. Travel, vacation and timeshare scams were particularly prominent (which is counterintuitive, considering these people already live in Florida, one of the top vacation destinations for the rest of the U.S.).

Insight: Although credit cards were the prevailing payment method, bank transfers accounted for the largest overall loss of all payment types ($407 million in the first quarter of 2023 alone). Money orders seem to have fallen out of favor with scammers, accounting for less than 1% of all money stolen by scammers.

#3 New Jersey

  • Ranking relative to population: #8
  • Median loss: $593 per victim
  • Total loss: $44.8 million

New Jersey residents lost half as much as Floridians, one fifth as much as Texans, yet still came in the #3 spot? Forbes’s logic eludes me.

#4 Texas

  • Ranking relative to population: #13
  • Median loss: $540 per victim
  • Total loss: $120 million

The Lone Star State placed #4 for investment-related financial scams. Business and job opportunity scams were rather common (Texas tied for #2 in this category).

Insight: Imposter scams were the single most common method that criminals used to rob the unsuspecting in the first quarter of 2023. Here’s a quick definition via USA.gov:

"Imposter scammers pretend to be from the IRS or Social Security, a business, or a charity. They want you to trust them so they can steal your personal information and money."

#5 Georgia

  • Ranking relative to population: #1
  • Median loss: $600
  • Total loss: $33.4 million

Interestingly, Georgia reported the lowest percentage of imposter scams.

#6 Arizona

  • Ranking relative to population: #15
  • Median loss: $650 per victim
  • Total loss: $33.5 million

Healthcare scams were unusually frequent in Arizona.

#7 Maryland

  • Ranking relative to population: #1
  • Median loss: $580
  • Total loss: $34.7 million

#8 New York

  • Ranking relative to population: #16
  • Median loss: $500
  • Total loss: $64.9 million

#9 Illinois

  • Ranking relative to population: #10
  • Median loss: $511
  • Total loss: $42.3 million

#10 Pennsylvania

  • Ranking relative to population: #6
  • Median loss: $500
  • Total loss: $38.8 million

Most common frauds among the states

There doesn't appear to be much diversity when it comes to how these percentages are distributed.  Impostor scams were the most prevalent, accounting for upwards of 30% of all scams in every state. These were followed distantly by online shopping scams with "negative reviews" being mentioned often. This presumably means directing people away from reputable stores through fake reviews and towards scammers' fronts. These accounted for around 15% in each state.

From there, it's a pick 'em with prizes, internet services and so on all hovering below or above 5% in each state.

Knowing what to look out for is key to defending against most scams. To help you detect and avoid financial scams, Birch Gold Group has pulled together an extensive resource guide that is now available on our website. The Birch Gold Group Scam Protection Resource Guide helps you identify warning signs and provides you with tips on how to avoid fraud.

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