Millennials a Popular Target of Rising Mobile Phone Scam Trend

Our millennial news editor isn't pleased.

James Anderson, Senior News Editor

March 29, 2018

3 Min Read


James Anderson

Millennials “are less concerned” about financial security than other generations, according to a new study.

A First Orion study of 1,000 mobile phone users takes another shot at “Generation Y.” The survey found that people under the age of around 35 showed more confidence in their ability to recognize phone scammers while being targeted and victimized more often.

First Orion highlights a statistic that says almost three times more millennials suffered financial losses than baby boomers (those born between approximately 1940 and 1960) as a result of a phone scam. The study did not reveal how frequently Gen Xers (those born between 1960 and 1980) were targeted.

The study also didn’t disclose how many of the cellphone users surveyed were baby boomers.

But First Orion’s conclusion was pretty clear; if you’re going to pose as the IRS, dial up a young person.

“Tax season poses an opportune time for sophisticated scammers to disguise their identities and target consumers; in fact, we found nearly one-third of respondents have received a scam call from someone impersonating an IRS agent,” said Scott Ballantyne, First Orion’s chief marketing officer. “As digital natives, millennials are often less skeptical about the repercussions of sharing their personal information and trust that financial security systems will protect them. Older generations, however, tend to be more hesitant because they better understand the ramifications of fraud and identity theft; plus, they have generally built up more wealth and therefore have more to lose.”

Millennials demonstrated a particular quirk in the study. They were three times more likely than Gen Xers to give away their entire social security number over the phone. Millennials also showed a willingness to offer personal information if the caller asked for their last four SSN digits.

Perhaps that tactic was acceptable in the past, but the bad guys are more and more often targeting companies like Equifax to extract pieces of information like SSN. It’s increasingly easy to gain access to the last four digits of a person’s SSN. The Equifax breach led to such an extensive leak of information that experts have suggested we stop using SSN for authentication.

In a bit of an unnecessary spiking-of-the-football, First Orion concluded by saying that more than two in three (68 percent) millennials didn’t know the correct deadline for filing their taxes. Upon reading the statistic, I (a 23-year-old) guessed that the day was April 18. I googled and found that it’s April 17.

Whoopty-freakin-doo. We use Google for things. At least I don’t have a landline.

First Orion and other organizations have highlighted the naive and borderline arrogant phone habits of millennials, but First Orion is guilty of painting with a very broad brush.

The company, which put out a similar study last year, doesn’t reveal what percentage of its respondents were millennial, Gen X or Baby Boomers. It also does not account for gender.

A 2016 TrueCaller study reported by NBC News said that millennials were the most common target of robocall scams, but there was a wide disparity in …

… gender. One in three (33 percent) of millennial men reported scam incidents, compared to 11 percent of millennial women.

There is, however, a startling trend that was somewhat buried: These scams are increasing for mobile phone users. The study found that “respondents were four times as likely to have received a scam call within the past week compared to the same study from 2015.”

Other important findings include:

  • Thirty-two percent said they would speak to an IRS agent about their taxes over the phone, even though IRS agents do not use phone calls for tax inquiries.

  • One-third said someone impersonating the IRS contacted them via email, text or call.

  • Eighty-seven percent said they believe they have received a phone-call scam.

First Orion sells applications for carriers and service providers that block potential scam calls.

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About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

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