Americans losing more money in phone scams

Consumer Report

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Americans are losing more money in phone scams than ever. The figures are hard to absorb, i.e. almost $30 Billion was lost in the last year by about 59 million Americans. Average losses amounted to $500 per person, up from $350.

“There’s no longer telemarketers, they’re literally fraudsters. They’re shaking people down for larger and larger amounts of money and they’re not the folks who can afford to lose $500 dollars, such as seniors,” says Clayton LiaBratten from Truecaller which did the report in conjunction with the Harris Poll.

“A lot of people are falling for this because these criminals are very, very clever,” says LiaBratten.

The report says that about 20 percent were scammed more than once.

Tom Stephens from the Better Business Bureau says “there’s a common theme to most all of these scams and that’s impersonation. They’re either going to impersonate a government agency or a well known company.”

Tom Stephens with the Better Business Bureau reminds us all that the IRS or the Social Security Administration or companies like Amazon won’t call you. He says if you take a call and you’re suspicious it’s a scam, hang up.

“Scammers are successful because they can be smart,” said Stephens. “They know the buttons to push and they know how to be threatening when they need to be and how to be friendly and care giving when they need to be.”

Stephens suggests letting calls go to voice mail unless you’re certain who’s calling. He also says if you get into a conversation and someone suggests that you send them money in a way that can’t be traced (like a gift card) that it’s ‘100 percent’ a scam.

LiaBratten told me that people can get apps for their cells phones and that Truecaller is one of the companies that sells the app that is designed to identify potential spam or scam calls. But he also told he thinks most people resent the fact they can’t feel comfortable answering their own phones these days.

On Wednesday, the FCC said that most major phone carriers are now providing a form of techology designed to screen spoofed calls (calls that say it’s someone from your area code calling but it’s not.)

“I would say the government the fact the government today is putting in some measurements today with carriers to knock down some of the robocalls is good, but it’s no silver bullet, there need to be a lot of different mitigation strategies,” said LiaBratten.

He says the bottom line is that people need to be aware and careful.

“It aggravates me that people are being exploited relatively easily and again, when we talk about the numbers in this report we probably all know someone who has been defrauded, he said.

LiaBratten says in addition to screening calls and using an app to identify potential scam calls, consider being more careful about sharing your phone number.

“In my view, if you’re talking $500 a pop treat your phone number like you treat your bank account number,” said LiaBratten.

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