[PHONE SCAMS] Who is Most Gullible?
Americans lost an estimated $10.5 billion to phone scams in the past 12 months, according to an online Harris Poll survey. It's reported that 1 in 6 adults lost money to phone scammers last year, up from 1 in 10 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? Male millennials (age 18-34) had the highest rate of gullibility, with a whopping 40% reporting they’d lost money to phone scams in the past twelve months. Only 28% of female millennials were tricked out of money, perhaps because they’re on guard against phone calls from male millennials.
Overall, 17% of more than 2,000 survey respondents admitted to being victims of phone scams in the past year. 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 phone scam report also found that 83% of all scam calls targeted mobile phones, and that parents with children under 18 years old more likely to be scammed. The most commonly reported spam and scam calls were for low-interest loans and credit cards, free vacations, and problems with a bank account.
Many phone scams do target older Americans; that’s well documented by other, long-running research. Questions of mental competency aside, 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.
Term life insurance, often sold as “prepaid funeral services,” is another good scam. We really don’t know if life insurance exists until someone tries to collect it; by then, the scammer has all the money he’s going to get and may be long gone.
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 Free Antivirus Programs for my recommendations.)
“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.
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. (See my article Should You Answer That Call? to learn more about phone spoofing, and why you get so many robocalls that appear to be from your neighbors.)
“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 prize money. Tell the caller to just mail a check.
Surprisingly, “You can pay your income taxes in cash at any 7-11” is NOT a scam or hoax. The IRS really is partnering with 7,000 7-11 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 7-11 to collect your taxes.
I should note that the Harris Poll survey cited above was commissioned by TrueCaller.com. The company’s app for iOS, Android, and Windows devices 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 25 Jun 2019
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- [PHONE SCAMS] Who is Most Gullible? (Posted: 25 Jun 2019)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved