AARP Eye Center
We may have entered the digital age, but the telephone remains a key weapon in scammers' arsenals. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received about 1.8 million fraud complaints in 2021 in which a contact method was identified, and in 36 percent of cases a call was the swindler’s way in.
Once they get you on the line, phone scammers use false promises, aggressive sales pitches and phony threats to pry loose information they can use to steal your money or identity (or both).
It’s easy to understand why crooks love to dial you up. Based on the results of a March 2021 survey, call-security app maker Truecaller estimates that some 59 million Americans lost money to a phone scam in the previous 12 months. According to FTC data, the median loss in scams that start with a call is $1,200, higher than for any other method of contact.
Technology has made this illicit work easy. With auto dialers, shady operators can blast out robocalls by the millions for just a few dollars a day. Readily available spoofing tools can trick your caller ID into displaying a genuine government or corporate number, or one that appears to be local, to increase the chances that you’ll answer.
Whether live or automated, scam callers often pose as representatives of government agencies or familiar tech, travel, retail or financial companies, supposedly calling with valuable information. It might be good news. (You’re eligible for a big cash prize! You’ve been preselected for this great vacation deal!) It might be bad. (You owe back taxes. There’s a problem with your credit card account.) Whatever the issue, it can be resolved if you’ll just, say, provide your Social Security number or make an immediate payment.