Truecaller Insights: Phone scams cause Americans to lose $10.5 billion in last 12 months alone

For the first time, since we released our first edition of our Truecaller US spam & scam report, Americans have lost more than 10 billion dollars due to phone scams. In our fifth annual report we break down the impact of phone scams and spam in the US, and the numbers are shocking.

Highlights of this year’s report:

  • New data shows sharp (70%) annual rise in number of Americans falling victim to phone scams – while spam calls have soared by 39%
  • Nearly 1 in 6 Americans report losing money to scams over the last 12 months – up from to 1 in 10 last year
  • Of those scammed, the average loss was $244 per victim
  • Men are more susceptible to phone scams than women – young men in particular – as scammers target mobile phones
  • Upsurge in scams correlate with increase in persistent spam calls, which are up 39% from 2018 (23 per month) and 100% from 2015 (16 per month)
total money lost to scams

In our fifth annual report we found that nearly 1 in every 6 American adults (17%) lost money from a phone scam in the past 12 months with over half of those who have ever been scammed (56%) reporting they’ve been a victim more than once.

average money lost per scam

With an average loss of $244 per victim, the result of these scams is projected to have cost 43 million Americans approximately $10.5 billion* in total losses.

Total Spam Calls Up 39% Over Last 12 Months:

monthly spam calls and text messages received

On average, Americans reported receiving 32 spam calls (mobile and/or landline – of which 72% were robocalls) and 11 spam text messages in an average month, which is a significant uptick of 39% for spam calls from last year (average 23 spam calls in 2018). Over a 12-month period, that amounts to roughly 97.2 billion spam-related calls and more than 33.4 billion spam texts received in the US.**

Men and Younger Adults Most Susceptible to Scams:

Men and younger adults are the groups most likely to fall victim and lose money to a phone scam  – particularly men aged 18-34. Despite receiving lower than average spam calls per month (21) – and half the number of calls reported by men over 65 (47) – men aged 18-34 also reported the highest instance of lost money. Two in five men aged 18-34 (40%) claimed they’d been victimized by a phone scam in the past 12 months compared to only 13% of men aged 35+ and 28% of women aged 18-34. Overall the number of men being victimized (21%) was a significant 62% higher than women (13%).

scam victims by gender in 2019

Parents with Children Under 18 Years Old More Likely to be Scammed:

The report also found that parents with a child under the age of 18 years old are three times as likely to fall victim to being phone scammed at 30% while just 10% of adults without a child under 18 reported losing money on a scam in the past 12 months.

Households with Total Income Above $50K and Less Than $75K Least Likely to be Scammed:

Americans in households with a total income between $50K and $74.9K annually reported fewer incidences of phone scams at 12%, almost half the amount reported by households with incomes of $75K – $99k or those making less than $50K, which were scammed 21% and 19% respectively.

Scammers Target Mobile Phones:

scam calls on mobile vs landline

Among those reporting phone scams in the past 12 months, 83% say it took place via mobile phone while just 22% say it occurred over a landline. Some reported receiving scam calls on both mobile and landline.

Note: The number of victims targeted on a mobile phone has risen 69% since records began in 2014, when less than half (49%) said they were victim of phone scams via mobile phones.

“Great Credit Deal” is Most Commonly Received Phone Spam

most common spam and scam calls in 2019

Whilst “great credit deal” offers and the caller telling the recipient they’ve won something topped the list of most common phone spam, over half of Americans receive unsolicited calls of a negative nature, including problems with accounts and claims of owed money. The 5 most commonly received phone spam calls are as follows:

  • Great Deal

70% of Americans have received calls about getting a great deal

  • You’ve Won Something

64% received calls saying they have won something

  • Problems with an Account

53% received calls saying there is a problem with an account

  • Owe Money

50% received calls saying they owe money

  • Political calls

Nearly half of Americans (49%) report receiving political calls

94% of People Who Lost Money Reported Taking Some Action:

actions taken after being scammed

As a result of being scammed, most (94%) of those victimized said they took some action as a result.

Among those who lost money on phone scams in the past 12 months:

  • 35% downloaded a spam blocker or caller ID app
  • 32% cancelled credit card or changed account numbers
  • 30% checked phone bill
  • 25% contacted phone carrier
  • 23% changed phone number
  • 20% reported it to authorities (police, FCC, FTC)
  • 18% signed up for Do Not Call Registry
  • 17% signed up for credit protection/monitoring
  • 16% used “reverse look-up” or searched phone number to try and identify caller
  • 6% did nothing

The survey also detailed how people would react to calls from numbers they don’t recognize. Over two thirds of Americans (71%) say they would completely ignore calls from unknown numbers while nearly half (47%) would either block or report the number.

Here’s the complete breakdown for each action to be taken for an unknown number:

Unknown calls

  • Ignore completely (71%)
  • Attempt to block or report the number (47%)
  • Answer and hang up immediately to stop the phone from ringing (30%)
  • Try to track down the source of number (28%)
  • Answer or respond right away (14%)
  • Use call-back feature (13%)
  • Respond later (8%)
  • Other action (7%)
  • Not sure (5%)

Unknown text messages

  • Delete text (64%)
  • Ignore completely (60%)
  • Attempt to block or report the number (34%)
  • Try to track down the source of the number (18%)
  • Respond later (9%)
  • Use “call back” feature (8%)
  • Answer or respond right away (8%)
  • Other action (6%)
  • Not sure (7%)

Most Americans Would Rather Avoid Phone Calls Altogether

Interestingly, over half of Americans (55%) prefer to use text, social media apps and email in a bid to avoid phone calls altogether. This figure is even higher amongst the younger generations (ages 18-34) with almost three quarters (73%) stating they favour other forms of communication to avoid talking on the phone, compared to 57% of those aged 45-54 and 35% of those aged 55+.

Americans Worry They Will Miss Legitimate Phone Calls Because of Spam

Although 87% of Americans say they try to only answer calls if they recognize the caller’s number, almost two thirds of Americans (61%) worry they might miss legitimate calls because they suspect they are spam and don’t answer.

Survey Methodology:

The phone spam survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Truecaller from March 21-25, 2019 among 2,040 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. The phone scam survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Truecaller from March 19-21, 2019 among 2,030 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. These online surveys are not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact press@truecaller.com

Earlier surveys referenced – conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of Truecaller:

2018 phone scam survey March 13-15, 2018 among 2,036 U.S. adults

2018 phone spam survey March 22-26, 2018 among 2,049 U.S. adults

2015 phone spam survey November 17-19, 2015 among 2,104 U.S. adults

2014 phone scam survey July 18-22, 2014 among 2,040 U.S. adults

About The Harris Poll

The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys in the U.S. tracking public opinion, motivations and social sentiment since 1963 that is now part of Harris Insights & Analytics, a global consulting and market research firm. We strive to reveal the authentic values of modern society to inspire leaders to create a better tomorrow. We work with clients in three primary areas; building twenty-first-century corporate reputation, crafting brand strategy and performance tracking, and earning organic media through public relations research. Our mission is to provide insights and advisory to help leaders make the best decisions possible. Learn more at www.theharrispoll.com.

*2018 U.S census data showed a U.S. adult population (ages 18 and older) of 253,227,594. Based on 17 per cent of U.S. adults reporting losing money in a phone scam, the total number of phone scam victims in the U.S. was estimated to be 43,048,691. The average phone scam victim in the survey reported losing $244. This equates to a total of $10.5 billion.

**The average American adults receives 32 spam calls in a month, when multiplied by the U.S. adult population (253,227,594) that equals an average of 8,103,283,008 spam calls per month. Multiply this monthly figure by 12 months and this equals an average of 97,239,396,096 spam calls per year. The average American adult receives 11 spam texts in a month, when multiplied by the U.S. adult population (253,227,594) that equals an average of 2,785,503,534 spam texts. Multiply this monthly figure by 12 months and this equals an average of 33,426,042,408 spam texts per year.