Who Falls For Phone Scams?
Americans lost an estimated $7.4 billion to phone scams in 2015, according to an online Harris Poll survey. It’s projected that 27 million of us got taken by phone scammers last year, Based on the self-selected survey sample; that number is up 53% from 2014. You'll be surprised to learn who is most likely to fall for a phone scam. Read on!
The Most Gullible?
Are people getting dumber, or are scammers getting smarter? Male millennials (age 18-34) had the highest rate of gullibility, with 38% reporting they’d lost money to phone scams in the past twelve months. Only 17% of female millennials were tricked out of money, perhaps because they’re on guard against phone calls from male millennials.
Overall, 11% of more than 2,000 survey respondents admitted to being victims of phone scams in the past year. You might think that seniors 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.
Most 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?" If you get a phone call like this, 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.
“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, and 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. I use it on my phone, and it's been helpful.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 12 Apr 2016
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Who Falls For Phone Scams? (Posted: 12 Apr 2016)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved