[PHONE SCAMS] Are You Among the Most Gullible?
Losses due to phone scams in the U.S. have continued to skyrocket from year to year. Americans lost an estimated $29.8 billion to phone scams in the past 12 months, according to the latest Truecaller Insights US Spam & Scam Report. More than 59 million people (almost 1 in 4 adults) lost money to phone scammers last year, up from 1 in 5 the previous year, and that number is the highest it's been in five years. You'll be surprised to learn who is most likely to fall for a phone scam. Read on!
What Group Most Often Falls for Phone Scams
Are people getting dumber, or are scammers getting smarter? Males (age 35-44) had the highest rate of gullibility, with a whopping 46% reporting they’d lost money to phone scams in the past twelve months. Among women, the age group most susceptible were the 18-34 year olds, with 31% reporting being scammed.
You might think that senior citizens would be the most likely to get scammed. But actually it appears that the younger generations, who grew up with tech and don’t view it skeptically, are more likely to fall for a phone scam than their elders. The number of scam victims in the 55-64 age group was 15% and in the 65+ age group it dropped to about 5%. The 2021 spam and scam report also found that 85% of all scam calls targeted mobile phones.
Across all age and gender groups, the average amount of money lost due to scam calls was $502, a 43% increase over last year.
The Federal Trade Commission says phone scams have gotten worse during the pandemic. About 60% of Americans received scam texts or phone related to COVID-19. The FTC reports that they have received more than 130,000 complaints in the past few months, relating to “unsubstantiated health claims, robocalls, privacy and data security concerns, sham charities, online shopping fraud, phishing scams, work-at-home scams, credit scams, and fake mortgage and student loan relief schemes.”
Many phone scams do target older Americans; that’s well documented by other, long-running research. Older people tend to have more money to steal; they’re more compassionate and trusting; and they use government services that are readily adapted to scammers’ nefarious purposes.
Medicare is a favorite subterfuge of phone scammers. Selling "supplemental Medicare Part D insurance" is pretty easy, especially if the price is exceptionally low because the product doesn’t exist. Mobility scooters, walk-in bathtubs, and other hardware are also scammer favorites, with the lure that “Medicare will pay for every dime.” Usually, either the price is inflated or the product is of low quality. The victims, in such cases, are Medicare and all taxpayers.
Tech support and virus hoaxes are also popular among phone scammers. The immediacy of a phone call works in the scammer’s favor. When “Microsoft tech support” is on the line, urgently telling what you must do to stop the malware that’s infected your computer, you just don’t take time to think, "How would Microsoft know my PC’s infected?" Or, "How did my Mac get infected with a Windows virus?" If you get a phone call like this, do not let the caller initiate a remote login or screen share. Hang up and run a malware scan with your anti-virus tool. (See my article PC Matic Gets a Zero! for my recommended security software.)
“Your account has been frozen.” Again, the immediacy of a phone call leads people to provide “verification” details, including their account login credentials and PIN, without stopping to verify that the account actually is frozen. No financial institution asks for security details by phone, ever. Never respond immediately such claims. Take a breath, investigate, and respond accordingly.
Recently I've been getting calls claiming to be the local power utility company, telling me that my service will be shut off in 30 minutes, unless I pay an overdue amount. The number on the caller-ID is the correct number for the utility, but it's been spoofed. Another tip-off -- I moved 2 years ago, and that company no longer is my electricity supplier. I also get "apology calls" supposedly from my electric utility, offering rebates for being overcharged.
“Trust us, we’re from The Government” actually still works on some people. But no, the FBI doesn’t settle cases by taking credit card numbers over the phone. Neither does the IRS make collection threats by phone. Callers impersonating federal agents may provide a (bogus) badge number, or even claim the police are on the way to arrest you. On the flipside, the IRS does not call for your bank account details to deliver rebates or refunds.
Winners and Losers
“You’ve won _________ !” No, you haven’t. Even if you did, you don’t have to provide bank account details or pay anything to collect a prize or money. For a while recently, I was getting daily calls from an 876 number in Jamaica, informing me that I won two million dollars and a new Mercedes Benz. The catch is that you must send several thousand dollars to secure your prize and arrange for transport. When I tell the caller to keep the car and just mail a check, they lose interest in me right away.
Surprisingly, “You can pay your income taxes at any 7-Eleven” is NOT a scam or hoax. The IRS really is partnering with 7-Eleven, Dollar General, Family Dollar, CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens, Pilot Travel Centers, Speedway, and other retail stores to collect cash payments from people who lack bank accounts. I think that’s a very bad idea because scammers will pervert this program to their purposes. Don’t listen to anyone who says he’s from the IRS and will meet you at 7-Eleven to collect your taxes.
Nomorobo is one company that offers anti-spam services. The company, which won the FTC’s Robocall Challlenge, in which many companies competed to come up with the best anti-robocall technology. Nomorobo has crowd-sourced over half a million phone numbers used by spammers, and adds new numbers identified as spammers or scammers by its customers.
Another tool to help block scam calls is the TrueCaller app, which attempts to match your incoming caller to one of the 2 billion phone numbers in TrueCaller’s database and provide some clues to the caller’s identity. The free app also blocks unknown callers, those who disable caller-ID, and specific numbers.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below…
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 21 Jan 2022
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- [PHONE SCAMS] Are You Among the Most Gullible? (Posted: 21 Jan 2022)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved