Today as a society, we are more connected than ever before. Internet technology, mobile technology, smartphone technology—it’s given us the endless opportunity to connect with others. But with the good comes the bad, and unfortunately, constant connectivity has also led to the rise of phone scams. Every day, thousands of people are becoming the target of phone scamming. The problem isn’t to be taken lightly. In fact, the IRS scam has been one of the largest phone scams to date—criminals impersonating IRS agents collected and stole more than $14 million from innocent Americans. For those who have ever been a victim of an unknown caller or who didn’t even know such a fraudulent activity was even possible, here’s what you need to know about phone scams and how to avoid them.
What Is a Phone Scam
A phone scam is essentially the act of someone calling a person, often claiming to work for an organization when they in fact, do not, and asking for personal information or money. Phone scams come in many shapes and forms. Some common ones include phony debt collectors, fake charities, phishing scams that try to make you download malicious software, loan scams and threats. The ultimate goal of most scams is to manipulate a person into sending money to these con artists or collecting personal information like social security numbers to use with malicious intention.
The Signs of a Phone Scam
One of the first signs of a scam is when a person receives a phone call without asking for it. When you see a phone number you don’t recognize, be cognizant that it could be a scammer. If you do pick up the call and the person on the other end claims that you’ve won a prize from a company you’ve never even subscribed to, has an offer for you that’s too good to be true or pressures you to give them information about yourself, it’s likely a phone scam. These callers often integrate a sense of urgency or exaggerate a scenario in order to get people to act. Other phone scams come in the form of a pre-recorded call. Should you receive this “robocall,” hang up the phone immediately and do not respond to any call to actions to press a dial—this can lead to more calls. Some phone scammers are more complex and try to legitimize their business by directing you to a website or sending information. The rule of thumb is, if it’s not something you asked to be called about, it’s not going to benefit you in any way.
How to Avoid Them
Anyone can become a target of these phone scams. If you receive a call that causes suspicion, simply hang up and file a complaint with the FTC to prevent further harassment to you and others who may be victimized. You can take matters a step further to protect yourself from a phone scam in more than one way.
One option is to download an app like Mr. Number to your mobile phone. The app identifies potential scams and lets you easily block unwanted calls. You can also reduce the number of unwanted sales calls, and potential phone scammers that fall into the mix, by putting your number on the National Do Not Call Registry at donnotcall.gov. If you still receive a call from a company, they are likely illegitimate because they have ignored the Registry, so you can narrow down that it’s a potential phone scam more easily. Mobile service providers like T-Mobile are additionally a source of protection. Under the carrier’s cell phone plans, it has integrated Scam ID and Scam Block technology. Scam ID automatically alerts phone owners when a call is potentially a scam and Scam Block stops the phone scam calls before they even reach the customer.
Phone scams are a serious concern and crime when they escalate. Now that you know what the criminal activity entails, how to spot one and the resources and services that’ll help you avoid them, take the right precaution to protect your assets and personal information from harm’s way.