DC consumers were bilked out of $13M in 2023. Here’s how scammers made their money

Scammers were busy in 2023 — and consumers, including those in the nation’s capital, paid the price.

“Consumers in D.C. reported losing more than $13 million,” said Federal Trade Commission spokesman Jay Mansfield. “That reflects almost 6,300 reports of fraud.”

The FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network database includes reports from consumers, as well as from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

Identity theft topped the list of issues reported to the FTC by consumers in the District. When it comes to scams, the top fraud reported was impostor scams, according to Mansfield.

“The way a consumer would typically come across this is either they get a notification that an account has been opened in their name, or they go to get a credit card and discover somebody opened a credit card in their name in the last few months — and they didn’t realize that, because they didn’t do it,” Mansfield said.

Nationally, the FTC received fraud reports from 2.6 million consumers last year, with impostor scams topping the list.

“We’ve seen in the last year a huge increase in people reaching out to consumers pretending to be a representative of a government agency,” Mansfield said.

Red flags should go up when a consumer is urgently implored to make a payment with gift cards or cryptocurrency.

“That’s always going to be a scam — the government doesn’t reach out to you with an urgent request for money,” Mansfield said.

If a consumer believes they’ve been caught up in a scam, Mansfield said they should report it on the FTC’s website and reach out to the entity through which the scammer was paid — a gift card company or bank, for example.

“Let them know that this was a scam, and see if it’s possible to claw that money back,” Mansfield said. “The odds are not always great for that, but it’s an important step that consumers should take, to potentially get some of that money back.”

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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