Robocallers Tried to Scam Nearly Half of Senior Citizens Out of Money In 2019

Robocallers Tried to Scam Nearly Half of Senior Citizens Out of Money In 2019

April 14th, 2020

A new survey by Transaction Network Services (TNS) has found that 53% of US senior citizens believe robocallers tried to scam them out of personal information in 2019, and nearly as many (47%) reported that they were targets of financial scams last year.

While no demographic has been spared from the robocall epidemic that has bombarded consumers’ mobile and landline phones, seniors remain an attractive target for bad actors: older adults lose an estimated $2.9 billion each year to financial scams. The 2020 TNS Senior Citizens Robocall Survey Report, which is available to download from the TNS website, examines the impact of nuisance and scam robocalls on seniors in the US. It explores the most heavily reported types of scams and level of awareness among seniors of the tools and technologies available to protect themselves from robocalls.

Eighty-nine percent of seniors surveyed receive at least one robocall per week, while more than half (56%) receive at least seven robocalls per week. Overall, TNS estimates that over 106 billion unwanted robocalls were placed in 2019 (essentially 325 robocalls for every man, woman and child in the US).

Additional findings from the 2020 TNS Senior Citizens Robocall Survey:

  • More seniors directly impacted by robocall scams. While only 7% of seniors said they have lost money or provided personal information to a scammer, 40% claimed to know someone who lost money from, or provided personal information to, a robocall scam.
  • Gender gap revealed for scam targeting. 56% of male seniors believe a robocaller attempted to scam them out of money in 2019, while only 40% of women believe that is the case. Similarly, 59% of male seniors believe a robocaller tried to scam them out of personal information in 2019, compared to 48% of women.
  • Most seniors would take action if scammed. 83% of seniors said they would notify law enforcement as well as other relevant parties (friends, family, banks, IRS) if they fell victim to a robocall scam. Only 4% said they would be too embarrassed to tell anyone they were scammed.
  • Healthcare providers leaving seniors in dark on robocall scams. Despite the fact that 45% of seniors received a healthcare-related scam call, only 21% reported that they received information from their healthcare provider on robocall scams – which is problematic as older Americans are vulnerable to health scams such as those that have emerged around the coronavirus pandemic offering masks and medical kits. Carriers, for their part, can play a broader role in these critical awareness efforts: only 22% of seniors said they have received information from their carriers on how to avoid getting scammed.
  • Seniors largely unaware of carriers’ robocall detection apps. While 25% of respondents use a robocall blocking app from their carrier, two-thirds (66%) of seniors are not aware if their carrier offers a robocall protection app – suggesting an opportunity for carriers to broaden app branding and education efforts.
  • Prize and opportunity scams most common. The most popular scams targeting seniors were opportunity scams, as 71% of respondents said they received a product/program scam call (qualifying for a lower credit card rate, etc.), followed by 65% for winner/qualification scams (free trip, prize, gift card). Also popular are computer support scams (59%), IRS/taxes scams (56%), money making scams (55%) and social security scams (53%).
  • Spoofing remains a common tactic. 79% of survey respondents claimed they have received a call from a solicitor that came from a local area code and prefix – also known as “neighbor spoofing.”

“Our survey offers a comprehensive snapshot of the risks that malicious robocalls pose to seniors, who can be particularly vulnerable to scammers,” said Mike Keegan, Chief Executive Officer at TNS. “Data that provides a better understanding of the frequency and types of scams being used today – alongside ongoing efforts by policymakers, carriers and other industry participants to provide a layered approach to restoring trust in voice calling – can better protect individuals of all ages going forward.”

TNS commissioned a US Online Omnibus Survey by Kantar in January 2020 which covered 1,000 US senior citizens aged 55-80. These surveys are designed to be nationally representative of senior adults across the US within this age range and use a quota sample (age interlocked with gender, and a regional quota). For additional information on the 2020 TNS Senior Citizens Robocall Survey, visit here.

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