What? Another phone call? And from a number you don’t recognize?
Do not answer – because scammers are betting you will.
According to a recent Harris Poll conducted by the polling outfit and Truecaller, the impact of phone scams the last year has produced a staggering $39.5 billion in losses – the most since phone scams were first tracked by law enforcement eight years ago.
Unfortunately, the scammers are getting smarter. They often use local numbers to make their call seem more legitimate. And they’re employing a new technique – eavesdropping – where the caller leaves a vague but important-sounding message encouraging you to call back immediately.
It’s working. According to the Harris Poll, a third of Americans fall for phone scams with 20 percent falling for it multiple times. That amounts to an average loss of $577, a 14.9 percent jump from 2021.
“We encourage customers to keep a robust list of trusted contacts,” said Jeff Taylor, head of commercial fraud forensics for Regions Bank. “Keeping this information current will assist in identifying potential scam calls from those from legitimate contacts. Another is to register your phone numbers in the government sponsored Do Not Call Registry by calling 1-888-382-1222 or visiting the website.”
Before you get scammed, take these proactive steps:
1. Block unwanted calls – While the registry can be helpful, it’s not stopping the most aggressive scammers. That’s why the FTC recommends call blocking or call labeling, depending on your preferred device.
2. Recognize Robocalls – Recorded messages, often used to sell something over the phone, are frequently linked to scams.
3. Register your phone – The aforementioned Do Not Call Registry won’t end unwanted calls but they will limit the volume.
4. Download your carrier’s free spam-blocking app – The major phone networks provide free protection (and often extra levels of security for a small price). Included are AT&T Active Armor, T-Mobile Scam Shield and Verizon Call Filter.
5. Explore third-party apps – In Apple App Store or Google Play Store search for “spam call blocker.” You’ll get options and a little research can determine the best option for you. There is one caveat: According to the New York Times, these blocking apps often cost extra and some share data about your calls, so you have to weigh the risk vs. the reward.
There are some troubling trends:
- Men get scammed more than women – If that’s surprising, the demographics are even more shocking. Younger men (age 18-34) are twice as likely to fall for a fake phone call as middle-aged men (age 45-54).
- Seniors are disproportionately targeted – Specifically, American males 65 years and older received the highest volume of calls.
- Neighbor spoofing is on the rise – Scammers use recognizable area codes (including your own), and it’s working. According to the survey, 51 percent of respondents said they had seen a jump in local robocalls.
- Americans don’t trust their phones – A whopping 86 percent of Americans said they only answer calls from numbers they recognize, yet scammers are still getting through. And consumers complain that they may be missing legitimate calls.
- Seniors and the young are more likely to act – Younger adults are more likely to download spam blocker of caller ID apps while seniors are more likely to cancel credit cards or ask for new accounts when they suspect fraud.
The information presented is general in nature and should not be considered, legal, accounting or tax advice. Regions reminds its customers that they should be vigilant about fraud and security and that they are responsible for taking action to protect their computer systems. Fraud prevention requires a continuous review of your policies and practices, as the threat evolves daily. There is no guarantee that all fraudulent transactions will be prevented or that related financial losses will not occur. Visit regions.com/STOPFRAUD or speak with your Banker for further information on how you can help prevent fraud.