scam chart

Scam victims by Gender and Age bracket in 12 months

Everybody hates them, but anyone with a private phone has to deal with attempted scams on average once a day.

The Federal Trade Commission says to hang up and ignore instructions to push any buttons. Then make sure your phones are among the 244 million registered on its free Do Not Call (DNC) database. 

“The FTC has stopped billions of these calls in the past few years. Most people get obnoxious robocalls because technological changes have made them so cheap for fraudsters to blast out. … We’re continuing our aggressive enforcement,” said Kati Daffan, an attorney with the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Bridget Small, an FTC consumer education specialist, said last year, 5.7 million Americans filed claims of losing more than $5.8 billion from fraud. Although many think the oldest phone owners are targeted, Small said those age 20 to 29 were fraud victims more often than those older than 80.

The DNC list, accessed by 12,000 real companies, can’t stop political, charitable and debt collection callers. Survey takers and callers providing information also are allowed.

Go to donotcall.gov to register up to three telephone numbers and to file a complaint if money wasn’t lost. If money was lost, file a claim with reportfraud.ftc.gov. 

Pre-recorded robocalls were prohibited in 2009 unless the company has written permission for contact, or they face fines. So far, the FTC has collected $290 million in judgments.

There are companies, apps and phone settings, some free, to block solicitous callers. However, experts say those protections don’t necessarily prevent scammers, who can appear to be calling from the 321 area while actually halfway around the world.

Alan Mamedi, the founder of Truecaller, a call-blocking app, said in a December news release that “the reason that spam and scam businesses still exist is because it is highly profitable for very little effort and consequence.”

That firm’s 2021 U.S. Spam and Scan Report/Harris Poll reported that $29.8 billion was lost in phone scams by 59.5 (million? – MG) Americans, 60% from robocalls. The report found that each American receives 31 spam calls monthly on average, up from 28 in 2020.

H. Skip Smith of Melbourne gets seven or eight nuisance calls weekly, and hangs up. If a person is on the line and gives their name, “then I say Fred, you have a great day before I hang up. I don’t give them a chance.” She’s not on the do not call list.

Other red flags to a scam:

If you have to pay a fee to earn a prize.

If the caller claims to be from law enforcement or a federal agency and threatens you, or wants private information.

If you must make an immediate decision.

If the caller wants cash or a gift card.