Americans Lose Billions to Romance Scams, Impostor Scams, Fraud

New Webinar Series Helps California Consumers Fight Back
The Federal Trade Commission warns that scammers often pretend to be from the Social Security Administration and ask to "verify people's taxpayer ID" numbers in an effort to steal their identity. Photo Credit: Stockphotopro / Adobe Stock

Suzanne Potter
California News Service

Last year, Americans reported losing a record-breaking $5.8 billion to scams, and now, the State of California and AARP are teaming up to try to bring the number down.

four-part web series on consumer fraud protection debuts today at noon and runs every Wednesday through the end of the month.

Sally Westlake, targeted outreach specialist for the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation, pointed out so-called romance scams affect thousands of people.

“The most recent report by the FBI said last year, over 3,000 Californians fell victim to online romance scams, losing a total of nearly $184 million,” Westlake reported. “The most vulnerable to fall victim to romance scams are people over the age of 60.”

The first Scam Chat webinar will cover the most prevalent types of fraud in California right now. The other three in the series will cover home improvement and solar schemes, investment fraud, and financial empowerment.

Jackie Wiley, also a targeted outreach specialist for the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation, said people should be suspicious when a person calls or emails, claiming to work with a financial institution, or a law enforcement or government agency.

“It could be a utility company, telling you that your bill is delinquent. It could be ‘the IRS.’ It could be someone saying you missed jury duty,” Wiley outlined.

Wiley added it is always a big red flag if a caller or email asks for payment via cryptocurrency or gift card. You can report scams to the Federal Trade Commission or to the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation call center.

The web series can be found at

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.