The FBI seal is pictured in Omaha, Neb., Aug. 10, 2022. Credit: Christopher Wray / AP

The amount of money Maine seniors lost to fraud increased nearly five times in 2022 compared with the previous year, according to two recent FBI reports.

Senior residents reportedly lost $12.74 million last year, a dramatic rise from the $2.56 million lost in 2021, even though the number of people older than 60 reporting that they were victims of fraud decreased during the same time period, according to the FBI.

That pushed Maine’s ranking for elder fraud from 51st to 40th for losses, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Elder Fraud Report, released Monday.

The number of Mainers of all ages who lost money to internet fraud rose from 1,402 in 2021 to 1,435 in 2022, but the reported losses rose from $7.261 million in 2021 to $21.403 million in 2022, a nearly 200 percent increase.

Maine’s ranking remained at 46th for the total number of internet crime victims, but rose from 52nd to 47th for the amount of money lost to fraud, according to the bureau’s annual Internet Crime Report, released last week.

The data was gathered by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, established in May 2020, which receives information from federal, local and state agencies. 

The losses in Maine match a rising national trend, according to the reports.

In 2022, total losses reported by senior victims increased 84 percent from 2021. Tech and customer support schemes, where someone pretends to be representing a company, were the most common type of fraud reported, with 17,800 complaints filed by victims older than 60.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew McCormak, the elder fraud coordinator for the U.S. Department of Justice in Maine, said Tuesday that while the reporting of elder abuse fraud has increased, it is still considered to be vastly under reported.

“People are embarrassed by it, so it goes unreported,” the federal prosecutor said. “The numbers don’t explain the whole problem.”

McCormack said the most common elder abuse scams in Maine are people seeking money due to alleged computer problems and romance frauds. 

Monetary losses due to investment fraud reported by victims in that age group increased more than 300 percent nationally, more than any other kind of fraud, largely due to the rising trend of crypto-investment scams. Overall, cryptocurrency-related losses reported by seniors increased by 350 percent.

Cryptocurrency is a digital, encrypted, and decentralized medium of exchange. Unlike the U.S. dollar or the Euro, there is no central authority that manages and maintains the value of a cryptocurrency. Instead, these tasks are broadly distributed among a cryptocurrency’s users via the internet.

That trend was seen in Maine with 118 people reporting more than $4 million in losses to cryptocurrency fraud. The next highest type of fraud reported by 99 senior Mainers was for extortion, where a caller might pretend to be a relative in need of bail money or travel funds. Losses for extortion totaled less than $70,000.

In 2022, the center received 88,262 complaints of fraud from people older than 60 in the United States and its territories, who claimed losses of $3.1 billion. The average loss was $35,101 but 5,456 people reported losing more than $100,000 each.

The most populous states — California, Florida, Arizona, New York and Texas — reported the highest number of victims and the highest losses for elder fraud. 

The number of complaints concerning internet crime fell 5 percent from 2021 but the reported losses grew from $6.9 billion that year to $10.2 billion in 2022. In some of those cases, the FBI is able to intervene and put holds on monetary transactions to fraudsters before they can be completed, the report said. Holds were placed successfully on about $433 million.