Tyler is one of the top 10 cities in the country hit by phone scammers, according to a recent report.
First Orion, a communications company based in Arkansas which attempts to provide scam and fraud solutions to millions of people, ranked Tyler as No. 7 in its recently released recent mid-year phone scam report.
“Phone scams are everywhere, but there are certain spots scammers like to pester, time and time again,” the company stated on its website. Tyler is among nine other top cities, which are in Texas, Michigan, Ohio and Oklahoma.
In general, the report showed that 53% of people received more scam calls in 2022 than in 2021.
Tyler, which has hosted conferences and seminars to educate its residents about scams, has seen an increase in phone scams in the last year.
Mechele Mills, President and CEO of Better Business Bureau of East Texas, said even though the ranking is disconcerting, she is not surprised with it, as the trend in overall scams has gradually increased over the years.
Scamming also depends on demographics. Many senior citizens are often targeted, but First Orion’s report states two-thirds of 18 to 34-year-olds reported a financial loss due to a scam call. That age group was shown to be the most targeted by scammers. Ages 35-54 were ranked second, and 55 or above were in third place, according to the report.
“We have a sizable (amount of) senior citizens that are targeted often because they give scammers the opportunity to attack a group which typically has access to a lifetime of savings,” Mills said. “Meanwhile, college-age individuals often lack the experience of knowing which red flags to look out for, making them easy targets.”
First Orion’s report examined the most common types of scam calls by volume. The top five scams, in this order, were vehicle warranty, healthcare, social security, Medicare and health insurance.
Mills said some of the most common types of scams seen around Tyler are those involving advance fee loans, imposters, work from home and fake charities.
“We receive reports on all types of imposter scams on a daily basis, from people impersonating financial institutions or sweepstakes companies to individuals posing as law enforcement officials threatening victims to send money to avoid being arrested,” she said.
A local man was recently victim of a bond scam by someone impersonating a Smith County Sheriff’s Office investigator. The scam involved a phone call made to a Tyler citizen from an alleged investigator under the name “Detective Scotch.”
The victim, who complied with the scammer, was swindled out of an undisclosed amount of money, according to Public Information Officer Sgt. Larry Christian.
Mills said the BBB has seen a significant overall increase when it comes to calls reporting scams.
The BBB has seen an overall increase of 24% in the number of scams reported since pre-pandemic levels with 42.8% reporting dollars lost, according to Mills.
The median reported dollar amount lost was $169.
Mills said local residents can avoid phone scams by following these guidelines:
- Do not rely on caller ID — Scammers can use “spoofing” software to falsely publish the name and phone number of your bank on your caller ID, making these calls appear legitimate.
- Don’t give out your financial information over the phone.
- Investigate unsolicited calls.
- Reconcile your bank account and credit card statements as often as possible.
In order to prevent local scams, Mills said the BBB provides educational resources via in person or online and programs through business partners. They also work with local, state and federal agencies for enforcement.
San Antonio, Dallas and Fort Worth were ranked in the top three of cities hit by scammers nationwide. Other Texas cities in the top 10 included Lubbock in sixth place.