You would think with all the publicity and warnings about phone scams the number of people who are victimized by these types of scams would be going down. Unfortunately, that is not the case and in fact, the exact opposite is true. According to a new study, in 2015 about 27 million Americans (about 11 percent of the adult population in this country) were subject to a phone scam. In 2014, only about seven percent of adult Americans were subject to phone scams. Unfortunately, I suspect that this year we’ll even see more Americans fall prey to phone scams.
When it comes to phone scams, the majority, about three-quarters of them, are now coming from peoples’ cell phones, either through unsolicited calls or texts. That probably is not a surprise to most people. However, what may surprise people is it is not just seniors who are subject to these types of scams; rather, it’s across the entire population. In fact, over one-third of all victims of phone scams were millennial men and another 17 percent were millennial women. In addition, what may surprise people is there are nearly double the amount of men who are victims of phone scams than women.
You and I must accept the fact that these phone scam artists are smart, sophisticated and good at what they do. You should never try to outsmart them. This is not a game. As far as I’m concerned, if you get an unsolicited text from someone you do not know, delete it and don’t click on any of the links contained within the text. You do not want to give these thieves any opportunity to take advantage of you. Remember, in today’s world, just like emails, many texts look official; don’t be fooled by them. Many contain links that contain a virus or malware program which is a way to steal information from you. Don’t give them the opportunity to infect your phone or computer.
From a standpoint of phone calls, once again, if you don’t recognize a phone number, let it go to voicemail. My philosophy is if I don’t recognize the number I’m not answering the phone. Furthermore, everyone should be signing up for the “Do Not Call” list. It’s not 100 percent effective but every little bit helps.
Phone scams take a number of different forms. For example there is the grandparent scam where someone claiming to be a grandchild in an emergency situation is attempting to get money from you. Another popular scam is someone calling claiming they are from the IRS and once again attempting to scam money from you. The bottom line on all these scams is someone is pressuring you for money.
It would be nice if the government had the resources to protect us from these scams, but they don’t. You and I are the last line of defense. Protect yourself and don’t think you’re smarter than the scam artists. They are smart and they are intelligent and their goal is to rip you off. Don’t give them that opportunity.
Rick is a fee-only financial advisor. His website is www.bloomassetmanagement.com. If you would like Rick to respond to your questions, please email Rick at firstname.lastname@example.org.