Scammers have had a busy year—and there’s no sign they are slowing down.
A survey by BeenVerified found that 71.10% of Americans reported an increase in scam phone calls and texts this past year, with nearly half of respondents getting scam messages every day.
More than one in 10 respondents lost cash to scammers, with average cash losses in the range of $250. One respondent reported losing $180,000 to scammers.
There were generational differences in reporting fraud attempts and losses: Generation X (ages 43 to 58) were slightly more likely to report being hit with dodgy messages on a daily basis. However, the Silent Generation (ages 78-plus) experienced the largest average cash losses in the range of $355.
In terms of recovering stolen cash, Generation Z comes out on top: Respondents ages 18 to 26 reported recovering cash lost this past year 5.83% of the time. And while half of respondents in older age groups report fraud attempts daily, only 38.14% of Gen Z report being hit every day.
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Top reported fraud attempts included mortgage, credit card and student loan debt reduction calls, fake package delivery and business imposter scams.
The survey polled nearly 2,000 BeenVerified users from all 50 states and the District of Columbia in early November.
Most common scam approach
Phone calls were by far the most common approach used by fraudsters, according to respondents, accounting for more than half of the reported cases, followed by text messages (23.44%) and email (13.40%).
How often do people get scam messages and calls?
Nearly half of respondents (48.05%) reported daily fraud attempts, while nearly a third (32.03%) reported multiple attempts per week.
When broken down by age group, Generation X (ages 43 to 58) reports slightly more scam attempts on a daily basis (51.78%), but—as noted above—more than half of all respondents in all age groups reported receiving scam phone calls or messages every day, except for Generation Z (38.14%).
Which generation gets the scam calls most often?
Top five reported scam attempts in 2023
Scammers use a wide palette of approaches to try to ensnare victims, ranging from business and government agency imposter scams, false claims of prizes and lottery winnings, to bogus employment opportunities and romance scams.
The top five reported by survey respondents were:
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1. Reducing your debt (credit cards, mortgage, student loans): 32.59%
Scammers follow the news, and with interest rates climbing—as well as student debt forgiveness still a topic of public conversation—it makes sense that this scam attempt was common this year. Here, fraudsters attempt to get users to reveal personal information by touting fake debt reduction plans.
Some examples of this were scam reported by users of a reverse phone tool operated by BeenVerified this past year:
Message said that she was Elon Musk’s assistant and they would help pay some credit cards off, but I had to donate to one of his charities. This was an elaborate scam.
[A] person keeps calling me telling me they are from the student forgiveness program. Little do they know that I don’t have any student loans. They keep calling me.
I think I was scammed through a “first time home buyer program” to help with closing fees, title, and a low monthly payment for the mortgage. I paid $1,500 and when I started asking more questions, all contacts expired.
2. Fake package delivery scam: 31.04%
This scam became popular during the first year of the pandemic when lockdowns and work from home became the norm. Fraudsters clearly aren’t deviating from a successful playbook: False claims of late package deliveries from USPS, FedEx, UPS and other well-known companies often try to trick users into clicking a dodgy link or calling a number, often in the hopes of revealing compromising information.
Message: “Our driver can’t find your address, and your package is still pending. And Our driver will redeliver tomorrow. Please provide your complete address at https://——” However, when I clicked on that link, I was directed to a website that ended with the country code .ru. [The domain typically associated with Russian websites.]
3. Business imposter scams: 28.10%
Similar to fake delivery scams, fraudsters also claim to be from name brand businesses, such as Amazon, Apple, Best Buy, in the hopes of spreading a wide net to catch actual company consumers off guard.
This number was used in an email to me by a scammer “Steve” with a foreign accent claiming to be from the “Geek Squad” who tried to convince me I had recently opted for a trial period of services, and that I had agreed to pay $489 annual fee when trial period ended. Not true. He said that to cancel the subscription, I had to download “——–.com” which is spyware. Beware.
Amazon scam.Ugh. “This call is to authorize the payment of $1499 for the recent order of Apple MacBook Pro on your Amazon account. If you do not authorize this payment, please press one to speak to our customer support representative.” Click here: ———— to listen to full voice message.
4. Warranties and protection plans: 27.71%
In this fraud attempt, scammers pose as company representatives telling you that your home or auto warranty is about to expire. They may even have information about your home or car that may lure you into thinking it’s legitimate. But really, they are likely trying to get personal information, such as your social security number, account number or other information, to hack your accounts.
Scammer calls saying my car warranty is about to expire and I must renew it right now. All this is fascinating since I don’t even own a car.
This may be a scam. Claiming to be XXXXX XXXX Warranty, wanting to verify all your data.
They keep calling to sell me an extended vehicle warranty. I’ve repeatedly asked them not to call, but they won’t stop. If I ask who they are, they hang up.
5. Banking and financial scams: 25.70%
In text and phone messages, scammers throw out a laundry list of bank names you know—Wells Fargo, Citibank, PNC, JP Morgan Chase and others—to tempt you to drop your guard and reveal information. Often, it comes as an alarming message saying a fraudulent purchase has been attempted; but really, the fraud is the scam message itself.
Scammer took $17,000 from my bank. Used the name Jeff, and said he was from my bank.
[I] was texted from this number reporting a personal bank account was charged by an unauthorized person. Reply Y if recognized or N if unauthorized. I said yes and then was called from a different number and spoke to a scammer who tried to get into my account. I notified the bank and took care of it.
Top types of scam calls and text messages in 2023
Here’s the full list of types of scam messages and texts respondents reported receiving in the past year.
|Which type of spam phone calls or text messages have you received?
|Reducing your debt (credit cards, mortgage, student loans)
|Calls pretending to be businesses (Apple, Amazon, etc.)
|Warranties & protection plans
|Banking and financial scams
|Calls pretending to be government (FBI/IRS/Social Security)
|Real estate, vacation rentals & timeshares
|Medical & prescriptions
|Computer & technical support
|Lotteries, prizes & sweepstakes
|Employment (WFH) & other ways to make money
Which generation reports the most cash losses from scams?
The oldest age group surveyed—the Silent Generation, ages 78 and above—reported the highest amount of losses to scammers this past year, in the range of $355, followed by Generation X ($324) and Millennials ($251). Baby Boomers reported the lowest range with $200 in losses.
Cash recovery by age group
More than one in 10 survey respondents (13.41%) reported losing cash to scammers in the past year.
Unfortunately, most of these victims reported they were unable to recover lost cash. Looking by age group, Generation Z had the highest recovery rate (5.83%), while the Silent Generation had the lowest rate (3.23%).
Top clues that a scam may be afoot
We asked survey respondents to select from a range of red flags they use to avert falling for a phone or text message scam. Requests for personal information, poor grammar and “too good to be true” offers top the list:
|What signs do you look for to avoid phone and text message scams?
|Requests for personal information
|Too good to be true offers
|Email address without the company's name
|Incorrect phone numbers
|Foreign area codes
|Mismatching website and email
|Requests to pay in gift cards
|I'm not sure how to check for scams
How to try and protect yourself from scammers
Beware requests for personal information
Especially in business imposter scams, fraudsters will often try to get you to “confirm” personal information such as address, date of birth, account numbers and passwords. When you get an alarming message, always contact the company directly rather than using the numbers or links provided.
Even confirming the last four digits of your Social Security number can be all thieves need to hack into your accounts, as this user reported to the BeenVerified Scam Call Monitor:
They [the scammers] stated they were looking into approving a loan. With just the last four digits of my Social Security they gained access to my bank, filed a payment reversal claim and took over $7,000 from me.
Look for mismatching websites or email addresses
Scammers will often claim to be from a legitimate business, but upon closer inspection of email addresses or given websites, they are not quite right—such as inserting an errant character in an email address that you have to squint to see (“wel1sfargo” or “wallmart”), or a link that has no relationship to the company:
Website looks legit but it’s a serious scam.”USPostal: Your package has arrived at the transit center, but we are unable to continue delivery due to missing address details. Packagerenew.XXX/xXXX Sincerely,USPS Customer Service”
Don’t fall for urgency and fear tactics
Fraudsters commonly use fear and intimidation tactics to try to get victims to let down their guard and press a link that may be laden with malicious software, or scare you into revealing personal information that may lead to your bank accounts or your identity being stolen.
Scammed my father-in-law out of over $12,000. Using a bail scam, saying his son was arrested and needed to post bail and pay court fees. They came to his house to pick up the money. Brazen.
Big red flag: Requests to pay in gift cards
Thieves like to traffic in gift cards—they are untraceable, and often fraudsters will request victims to read the numbers off the back: That’s all they need to take your cash. Remember: No credible business or government agency will request you pay with gift cards.
This number is from a man who claimed his name is Mike J., a Loan Officer from XXXXXX Bank. This man scammed me out of $250 using a gift card scam.
[I] was just scammed by this number - was told to purchase an Apple Gift Card - took me for $1,000.
Be careful using peer-to-peer payment apps
Beware using money apps such as Zelle, Cash App and others, unless you know the other party and trust them. As the apps often warn, once the payment is made it can’t be undone—a reason they are a popular choice among fraudsters:
I got scammed today on FaceBook Marketplace. They scammed me a total of $650.00 by using Zelle and Apple Pay to this phone number.
They told me that my Hulu account had been hacked and they were going to fix it for me. Long story short, they convinced me to Zelle $251 to them and then purchase two $200 Target gift cards and send them pictures of the cards. I know that I probably sound very naive, but I sincerely believe that they caught me in a moment of weakness.
This guy runs a scamming business. He sets up fake websites, and says he ships the stuff, but then you have to pay “shipping insurance” for the value of the item. Well, I lost $560, most likely not going to [get it back] since I was an idiot and paid through Zelle.
Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it is
These criminals don’t just traffic in fear—they often try to lure victims with potential windfalls such as lottery prizes and cash awards: You just need to pay something up front.
He claimed he worked for [a famous sweepstakes company]. He scammed me for $3,500.
Informed me I was the first place winner of $4.5 million. Then [the scammer] said I would have to pay $2,500 to get it.
Transcription from their voice mail: “Today is Friday, October 20. This is Nancy with the Relief Advisory Agency. When you get this message, could you please call me back at XXXXXXXXXX This is a very urgent and time sensitive message about funding your hardship account. You have been prequalified for a hardship benefit of $31,000 to pay your bills…”
Check the phone number
Use a reverse phone tool which may help you determine if others have reported fishy activity from the phone or text number in question.
Unfortunately, scam attempts via phone, text messages and other online platforms appear to be a chronic concern—but patience and common sense can go a long way to alleviating the threat. Remember to think twice before responding in haste to any message claiming your account has been compromised—check directly with the company in question instead. And don’t be swayed by attractive claims of prizes and cash, especially if cash (or cash cards) are required up front to secure your winnings.
BeenVerified performed the online survey from Nov. 2-3, 2023, with 1,802 respondents from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as 272 respondents from Canada. Responses on some questions may total more than 100% as respondents could select multiple answers. Percentages based on the number of users who answered each respective question. For cash losses, respondents who chose $5000+ were averaged at $5000 as the total losses were unknown.
User comments are from call complaints logged on a reverse phone lookup tool owned and operated by BeenVerified in 2023. Some user comments in the study were lightly edited for clarity.
BeenVerified’s mission is to help people discover, understand and use public data in their everyday lives. BeenVerified and our associated websites curate dozens of public data sources and proprietary data sets to give people easy and affordable access to billions of public records.