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Survey Reveals Scale of Brand Imposter Risks to Consumers

YouMail Protective Services surveyed 361 U.S. consumers drawn from a representative cross-section of age groups, geographic regions, and income levels in March 2023 and released the findings examining the frequency and impact of the growing problem of brand impersonation scam calls and texts.

Key Findings

  • How big is the problem?   Much bigger than people realize.   Overall, 1 in 7 people report being scammed – which is 40m+ people in the US.  Said another way, if you fill up an SUV with family and friends, someone in the car was likely scammed.   Further, $40b+ in damages means that car warranty calls give people headaches, but brand imposter scams take from their wallet.  
  • Who is being scammed?   Not who everyone is focused on.  Younger people are actually getting more scams (and being scammed) than older adults (boomers+).   It’s not grandma and grandpa but the grandson and granddaughter who are most at risk.  That means they need to get protected and get educated.  Lots of focus on older adults, but we need everyone to pay attention.
  • Who gets the blamed?  Not the phone companies or the government.  People blame the brands (50%+), not just the criminals behind the scams.  That is,   1 in 2 people expect the brand to solve the problem – if it’s not Mom, it’s Dad.  And if they don’t, with the boomers, over half will never take a call again.  But even younger people are less likely to take those calls, with 1 in 4 unlikely to take calls again, which affects the brand for a lifetime.

Further Survey Observations 

YouMail study found that scammers most frequently pose as financial institutions and package delivery companies. These findings correlate with YouMail’s own Sensor Network data, which also sees brand impersonations of big hotel chains, cruise ship lines, computer and IT service companies, and many other types of well-known consumer-focused industries.  

YouMail data reveals that such imposter attacks have huge reach across all demographics, causing large monetary losses, and material harm to brand reputations. Highlighted findings from the survey include: 

  1. Brand Impersonation Scams are Ubiquitous.  
    More than 3 out of 4 of survey respondents (78%) said they have been the target of brand impersonation scams. This translates to well over 200 million people in the U.S. who have been targeted. The most common scams were financial services (51%), package delivery companies (49%), e-commerce sites and online stores (45%), and hospitality services (21%).

    Further, almost half of all respondents (45%) reported getting 10 or more of these scam calls and texts per month. This translates to over 125 million Americans receiving multiple brand impersonation scam calls each week – a stunningly large number. 
  2. Brand Impersonation Scams Affect the Young More Than the Old.  
    Over 9 in 10 of Gen Z respondents aged 18-26 (93%) have received brand impersonation scam calls and texts, versus about 7 in 10 Baby Boomers aged 59 and older (73%). This contrast suggests that young people are getting more of the imposter scam calls than the old, despite older adults generally thought to be targeted and most at risk.  

    Further, 1 in 6 of Gen Z (17%) and 1 in 5 of Millennial respondents aged 27-42 (20%) suffered financial losses from scams, compared to only 1 in 17 of Boomers (6%). Again, the younger generations appear to be about three times more likely to suffer financial losses from an imposter scam than the oldest adults. 

  3. Brand Impersonation Scams Are Costly. 

    The survey results imply that Americans have lost a cumulative $40 billion from brand impersonation scams that originated from robocalls or robotexts. This financial impact is a staggering price to pay, though perhaps not surprising given that Americans receive more than 50 billion robocalls per year. 

    Specifically, more than 1 in 7 survey respondents (15%) endured actual financial losses due to these scams, which translates to over 38 million U.S. adults. The hardest hit group involved 6% of consumers who lost $1,000 or more, or over 15 million adults, followed by 22% who lost between $99 and $999.    

  4. Brand Impersonation Scams Severely Harm Brands, In Some Cases Forever. 

    Over half of respondents (55%) said they would complain to the original brand about impersonation, leading to costs for the brand in dealing with those contacts, and even higher costs when the brand tries to help the consumer address the losses.    

    Further, roughly half of survey respondents (47%) said they are less likely to accept calls or texts from brands that have suffered imposter calls, making it harder and more costly for brands to contact their prospects and customers. Similarly, just under half of respondents (45%) said they would simply lose trust in doing business with the original brand, leading to losses in revenue for the brands as the consumers do less or no future business with them. 


2022 Victims by Age Group 

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Report 2021 adds more color to these observations by reporting:

  • Under 20 year's old: showed 15,782 complaints for $210.5M in losses
  • 20-29 year's old: showed 57,978 complaints for $383.1M in losses
  • 30-39 year's old: showed 94,506 complaints for $1.3B in losses
  • 40-49 year's old: showed 87,526 complaints for $1.6B in losses
  • 50-59 year's old: showed 64,551 complaints for $1.8B in losses
  • and 60+ year's old: showed 88,262 complaints for $3.1B in losses

Since the brands will ultimately pay the larger penalty with loss of customers and reputation, it will be incumbent upon them to take proactive action to identify, understand and prevent brand impersonation scams.

For More Information Or How To Protect Your Brand

You can check out our press release on the survey here and we will be publishing an infographic with more stats shortly.

In the interim, if you are curious as to breakdowns of how many robocalls happened last month, to whom, and where?  Or even the 100 Top Volume Robocallers? Check out the Robocall Index

Or learn more about solutions for robocall-based brand impersonation in a no obligation call on how to protect your brand from Brand Impersonation attacks here >