27 Million Americans Fell For Phone Scams In 2015

New Study Shows $7.4 Billion in Phone Scam Losses

27 Million Americans Fell For Phone Scams In 2015
May 16, 2024

Phone scams are continuing to increase, and the victims are not always the stereotypical elderly Americans. These are a few of the insights of a recently released survey performed on behalf of Truecaller.

In 2015, approximately 27 million Americans (11% of the adult population) were victimized by phone scams, compared to only 7% in a similar 2014 survey. Total 2015 losses to phone scams was $7.4 billion, or an average loss of nearly $274 per victim. Scams are trending in three alliterative aspects: mobile devices, men, and millennials.

As mobile phone use rapidly expands, so does the occurrence of mobile phone scams through unsolicited calls or texts. 74% of the 2015 phone scam victims reported that the incidence took place on their mobile device, compared to 49% in the 2014 survey. The amount of scam calls to landlines remained fairly consistent each year.

Millennials and men were the favorite targets of scammers. Men were almost twice as likely to fall victim to a phone scam, with 15% reporting losses compared to 8% of women. Millennial men constituted 38% of all victims losing money in a phone scam, compared to 17% of their fairer-sex counterparts.

At least we Americans take action after a scam — only 9% of victims reported doing nothing. The most popular response was to sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry, as 39% of victims did. Just over one-third of victims changed their phone number, 32% tried to identify the scammer through reverse lookup or other searching methods, and 30% altered their credit account by either changing their account number or cancelling the account entirely.

A significant number of victims chose a technological solution, with 20% downloading a spam blocker on their phone and 19% downloading a Caller ID app. Other steps include signing up for credit monitoring and/or protection (27%), reporting the scam to authorities (24%), reporting it to the phone carrier (25%), and checking the phone bill (21%).

Assuming that you do have a means of recognizing the number, how do you handle calls from numbers that you do not recognize? The majority of survey respondents (64%) simply ignore calls from unknown numbers. 11% of respondents use the callback feature, and only 8% choose to respond later. Another 22% answer and hang up immediately. Still, 11% of respondents cannot help themselves and answer or respond right away even though the number is unfamiliar.

The survey also gauged people's responses to unsolicited calls or texts. Of the five choices (annoyance, frustration, enraged, afraid, and helpless), the majority of respondents expressed annoyance. Annoyance percentages were 52% with an unknown caller, 64% with a live telemarketer, 65% with an automated telemarketer, 57% with a suspected scammer, and 56% with automated political calls.

Frustration came in second as a response, ranging from 26% to 33% of respondents. Anywhere from 15% to 31% of respondents were enraged by spam calls and texts, while the passive responses "afraid" and "helpless" never reached higher than a combined 20% in any category of spam calls or texts.

Taking preemptive steps such as downloading spam blocker or Caller ID apps can reduce your chances of falling victim to a scam, yet there are still some people who simply report the crime without taking precautions to keep scammers from striking again. If you have never been a victim, take the proper steps to avoid becoming one; and if you have been victimized in the past, learn something from your mistake.

Photo ©iStock.com/fatihhoca

  Conversation   |   12 Comments

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Elaine | 05.17.16 @ 02:15
I just watched a news report where a scammer called a policeman and he actually annoyed it was a scam.
Erin | 05.17.16 @ 02:31
We signed up for the 'Do Not Call' as soon as we were able. It's been such a relief to not have to deal with all of the junk out there. I wish there was a way to eliminate it completely though.
Heather | 05.17.16 @ 02:43
All of our numbers are on the Do Not Call list but that doesn't stop them. So many people fall for these phone scams all the time. When I worked for a bank we tried educating our clients all the time. Some people no matter how hard you try just won't listen to warning.
Beverly | 05.17.16 @ 02:45
I'm always amazed at how people can fall for the scams, but it seems to continue to happen. I wish there was a way to prevent it.....we just have to pay attention and be smarter then them.
Brittany | 05.17.16 @ 03:02
That is actually really sad. I get these calls ALL the time and it annoys me so much
Kailie | 05.17.16 @ 03:04
That is really scary that so many people end up falling for these scams, I wish more could be done about it.
Kyle | 05.17.16 @ 03:06
My mother fell for one of these scams and ended up losing a good portion of her savings. She was completely torn up about it for a long time. I had to get her on a Do Not Call list.
Angie | 05.17.16 @ 03:06
As technology becomes more and more sophisticated, so do the scammers. I can see why the elderly are frequent targets.
Zanna | 05.17.16 @ 03:06
I am required to answer unfamiliar calls on my phone because I am the published contact person for a group. I've started adding those scammer numbers to my contact list under "spam", so I only answer calls from that number once. The Do Not Call list hasn't seemed to help reduce my scammer calls at all.
Carla | 05.17.16 @ 03:23
We are on the Do Not Call List but some do get through. I heard my husband talking to one the other day and I just got before he gave out any information.
Jo Ann | 05.17.16 @ 03:24
There are so many scams that it is hard to keep up on what is or isn't real. My theory is if it acts like a duck, quacks like a duck , it is a duck. I refuse to be bamboozled by scammers by not taking the call, and if I do take a call I do my due diligence by checking out the information before ever giving any information. Which I am upfront with callers, that they will need to call back in 24 hours which gives me time to check out their given information.
Scott | 05.17.16 @ 14:17
Who are being scammed young people or the elderly???? If it's young people then a lot have their minds on straight, but of course you get those other idiots and you know young some are good now if its older people ages 70-100 that s awful
$commenter.renderDisplayableName() | 12.01.20 @ 11:13