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Phone Scams Are Costing Americans Billions: 3 to Watch Out For

Beth Braverman

Cyber scams get a lot of attention these days, but swindling strangers the old-fashioned way -- via phone -- is still netting crooks billions in ill-gotten cash.

Almost one in 10 American adults admit to losing money in a phone scam in the past year, with an average loss of $430 per victim, according to a new report from TrueCaller. That adds up to a collective $9.5 billion lost.

Related: An Alarming Amount of Americans Have Been Victims of ID Theft

Nearly three-quarters of victims said they had received the call on their cell phone, and men were twice as likely to say that they’d lost money in a phone scam than women. By age, Millennials were the most likely to fall for a phone scam, according to the study.

Here are three common scams that callers may try to use to fool you:

1. The tax scam: Callers claim to be IRS agents and tell victims they owe money to the IRS, which needs to be paid via prepaid cards or a wire transfer.

2. The outstanding warrant scam: Scammers impersonate police officers and convince the victim that they have an outstanding warrant that needs to be immediately paid or they’ll go to jail.

3. The utility bill scam: The caller poses as a municipal worker and threatens to cut off the victim’s utility bills without an immediate payment.

In many cases the crooks are able to alter their caller ID to make it appear that they’re calling from a legitimate institution. They also tend to ask for immediate payment via a prepaid card or wire transfer, which should be a red flag to you that the call may be bogus.

Total Money Lost to Scams

The TrueCaller report is based on two surveys, each of which contacted more than 2,000 American adults in March 2017.

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