NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Men are more likely than women to be defrauded by telephone, according to a report from Truecaller, a phone directory and ID service to verify callers and block spam. The study found that some 71% of men reported being victims, compared with only 29% of women.

"This was definitely one of the most surprising findings for us," said Alan Mamedi, CEO of Truecaller. "Even though men are more likely to check their phone bills after getting a suspicious call, our data shows men are more likely to answer calls from unknown numbers."

Some 17.6 million Americans lost $8.6 billion in the past year due to telephone fraud, mobile and landline. Of those who lost money, 49% reported losing money via a cellphone, compared with 36% for a landline.

"Phone scams continue to increase because of the number of people who have smartphones," said Jeff Bell, CEO of LegalShield. "Hackers have become more sophisticated and figured out how to break the security measures on smartphones."

The average loss among victims is $488.80, but one in five smartphone users do nothing to protect themselves from telephone fraud.

"There may be a resurgence of fraud committed using the phone, as anti-fraud technology is being deployed on newer Internet-related apps — causing bad actors to revert back to tried and true fraudulent methods with less protections," said Daniel Draz, a certified fraud examiner and principal with Fraud Solutions, a global fraud consultancy in Chicago.

Even though the risk for fraud is just as high for cellphones as laptop computers, only 33% of Americans never check their phone bill.

"People get enough bills via mail and email as it is, and if they are enrolled in auto pay, the phone bill can go straight in the trash," Mamedi says. "It's also a hassle to spend time on the phone with customer service contesting charges."

It's far easier to take preventative measures, which include not answering calls from anonymous callers, not disclosing personal or financial information and not paying debts over the telephone.

“We've seen a 60% increase from July to August in reported scammers calling from a 425 area code,” Mamedi says. “This area code covers the greater Seattle area and can be used by scammers pretending to be from Microsoft tech support.”

Suspicious calls include instances in which fraudsters pretend to be IRS agents or debt collectors or tricking consumers into dialing numbers that start billing them automatically for every minute they stay on the phone — called "one-ring scams."

“We’re seeing that a lot of smartphone owners are not taking some very essential steps to avoid becoming a phone scam victim," Mamedi says. "This amounts to huge cost in time and money if they do get scammed and need to contest charges, or worse, handle a case of identity theft."

Only 16% use a caller ID app different from what their smartphone came installed with.

“The lack of precautions leaves many susceptible to popular types of scams, which seem to be increasing at an alarming rate,” Mamedi says.

— Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet