Phone scams come through robocalls, which start with a pre-recorded message, through calls from real people, or by means of texts. However, they all have one common goal: stealing your personal data or your money.
The caller might promise a free product trial, a lucrative investment opportunity, or the opportunity to buy a product. They might even offer cash through a lottery or a free grant. To get it, you must give them some money first.
If you don’t agree, the scammer might threaten you with a lawsuit or even jail time. Every phone scam should be reported to a federal agency. Ideally, you would check an unknown phone number with Check People, a background check service, to see who it belongs to and give that information to the agency as well.
Report the Scam to the FTC
While the Federal Trade Commission doesn’t have the authority to investigate individual cases, they will collect evidence against scammers for a lawsuit. This agency is the main authority for collecting scam complaints. Sometimes scammers “spoof” the number that you see, meaning it’s not the real number. Report caller ID spoofing to the FTC as well. You can do this by phone or online. Report unwanted telemarketing and robocalls to the Do Not Call Registry. The consumer protection office in your state can assist you further in resolving consumer issues.
Recognizing a Scam
Phone scammers might also claim they’re calling on behalf of the government or appeal to you to donate to charity. They will put pressure on you to decide fast. Here are some common phone scam red flags.
# Requests you “confirm personal data”
# Use of limited-time offers and other high-pressure tactics
# They claim you were selected specially
# They won’t answer your questions about the offer or will be reluctant to
# They’ll ask for your credit card details
# They’ll ask you to pay by gift card, cash, or another unconventional method
# They’ll threaten you to force you to accept the “offer”
# They’ll claim your computer has been infected with a virus
# The call is made “on behalf” of a relative or friend who’s “in trouble”
Tips to Avoid Phone Scams
Have the National Do Not Call Registry register your number. You can request this by phone or online. Any telemarketing calls you receive thereafter are probably scams, since con artists and illegitimate organizations don’t respect this list.
Be wary of caller ID and hang up on suspicious callers. Be cautious of claims that you won a vacation or another prize. Conduct independent research of any travel packages, charities, or investment opportunities mentioned. The BBB is a great resource for this.
Never give in to pressure to act immediately. Never give out bank account data, your credit card number, or other personal information.
If someone calls from an unknown or private number and asks you if you can hear them, don’t respond. Your “yes” answer will be recorded as evidence you agreed to a credit card charge or purchase.
Use Call Blocking
There are apps you can download for landline as well as mobile phones. You can install some call blocking devices online or directly on your home phone. Before buying one, ask your phone company because not all services or devices will work on every carrier or home phone. Moreover, a large number of carriers – both landline and wireless – offer call blocking. Some of the services are paid, others – free.
You can download a third-party app to block unwanted calls on your mobile. These apps use so-called blacklist databases to detect spam calls. In addition, many cell phones have inbuilt functions and features to block calls from certain numbers or identify calls that could be spam. You might need to manage the list for some of them. There could be a limit on the numbers you can block, but it is rare to reach and even rarer to exceed.