We're getting our first look at just how much money Americans lost to phishing scams—those phony texts or calls or even Internet ads that try to get money or information out of you.
A report by TrueCaller, an app that blocks spam calls, estimates Americans lost $40 billion in 2022 to phishing scams.
"It continues to be the number one issue. It is the primary access point for 99% of these attacks,” said Robert Falzon, head of engineering at Checkpoint Security, an international Cybersecurity company with locations in more than 10 countries. " is going to be the year where we see a lot of these. It's just January and I'm fielding calls like crazy."
We often associate phishing with money, and that $40 billion offers credence to that point. But Falzon points out scammers are now looking beyond quick tricks that will net them a few hundred dollars to elaborate frauds that can cost people tens of thousands of dollars.
"Medical records are worth more than a working credit card nowadays,” said Falzon. “Hackers want to be able to do the long game with you. They want to know about your parent or grandparent that might be suffering from some cognitive disorder, and then they're going to find that information out and sell that medical record to someone who will exploit that person far beyond a simple, quick scam on the phone."
The report by TrueCaller shows more Americans are falling prey to these scams, even as awareness of them rises. It says 68 million Americans fell prey to phishing scams last year, which is up from 59.4 million in 2021 and 56 million in 2020.
It's why Falzon says to approach inquiries about any of your information with healthy scrutiny, and not just your financial data. He says with technology like ChatGPT, where AI produces messages, scammers can sound more natural and relatable.
So, ask questions. If it is a legitimate source, Falzon says you will not be scrutinized for authenticating validity. Also, do your homework. If you get a call saying you owe a medical debt, Falzon suggests calling your insurance company to verify that's true, and then call the credit agency back.
It is a few extra steps, but ones that can keep you, your money, and your information safe.