Most people are familiar with phone scams through the occasional local news item that highlights a warning from law enforcement or perhaps the victim’s own sad story about losing their life savings.
The BeenVerified Phone Spam Complaint Monitor sought to analyze these calls at a national level to identify the most common types of phone scams and their associated tactics. The report analyzed more than 200,000 phone complaints sourced directly from customers over a period of 2016 through the first half of this year.
Based on this data, the report has identified the top five phone scams everyone should be aware of in 2019:
1. Social Security scams – This scam has skyrocketed in 2019, with consumers complaining about social security related calls at a 23x higher rate compared to the same time period in 2018. In fact, they make up nearly 10% of all phone complaints in the report. There are many variations of this scam, but nearly all rely on threatening calls (or voicemails) from impersonators of federal or state government officials indicating that the victim’s social security number is “suspended” “compromised” or affected in some way, following a demand for quick payment to rectify the situation. A significant number of these calls were also accompanied by threats of a lawsuit.
2. IRS/tax scams – Last year’s previous top phone scam, reports of the IRS tax scam have declined markedly as social security scams have skyrocketed. It’s unclear if this a permanent trend or simply a temporary shift in tactics. It’s possible we will see a revival of this type of scam, which again relies on threatening calls from government impersonators demanding immediate payment of (bogus) back taxes, as we get closer to tax season in the new year.
3. Credit card offers – Complaints about robocalls offering unsolicited credit card offers grew this year. While some of these calls may be from legitimate companies, they also present scam artists with cover for attempting to obtain sensitive personal financial details.
4. Debt-related calls – Debt consolidation calls remain a persistent problem. Many of these offers promise a “quick fix” to repairing credit, but actually consist of practices that could harm your credit score in the long run.
5. Free offers or giveaways – While most phone scam calls rely on fear tactics, appealing to greed can also be an effective way to victimize targets. Remember if an offer seems too good to be true, it likely is!
Tips for avoiding this year’s top phone scams:
- Understand that the Social Security Administration does not “suspend” your social security number for any reason. Any type of call or voicemail you receive with language to this effect is a scam.
- Be wary of threatening voicemails: Scam callers increasingly rely on voicemails to accompany their impersonation schemes.
- Dismiss threats and pressure tactics: All phone scams rely on an element of time pressure (demanding payment right now). Government agencies do not operate this way and will communicate by mail if there is an issue.
Justin Lavelle is Communications Director of BeenVerified,