Phone Scams: How to Recognize and Report Them
People often complain about falling prey to phone scams and losing a hefty sum of money. Scammers and fraudsters have found out innumerable ways of swindling you out of all your savings over the phone. While some scammers act helpful and friendly, others may try to scare or threaten you.
The first thing you should remember is that a scammer will want to get your personal information or money to carry out identity theft. Make sure that you do not hand it over to them. So, here we share some of the most important things you should know about phone scams.
How to Identify a Phone Scam
Although a phone scam may come your way in one of the several forms, they usually ask you to pay money in a particular way or tend to make similar threats and promises. Here is how you can identify a phone scam.
1. You will not get any prize
The scammer might call you and say you have won a lottery or you have been selected for a prize. Remember that if you are paying for the prize, you should not consider it a prize.
2. You will not be arrested
Scammers who are calling might make you believe that they are a federal agency or law enforcement. They might say that you will be fined, deported, or arrested if you do not pay your debt or taxes right away. Their intention is to frighten you so that you pay immediately. But real federal and law enforcement agencies will not call or threaten you.
3. There is no need to decide now
Most of the legitimate businesses and companies will give you plenty of time to go through the terms and conditions of their offer or share written info about it before they ask you to commit. You will not get pressured into making hasty decisions right there on the spot. Make sure that you never pay using a gift card or send cash.
Scammers generally ask people to make a payment in a way, which makes it difficult for them to get their money back, including wiring money, using money transfer apps, cash reload cards or prepaid cards, or putting money on gift cards. Anyone who tells you to pay in that manner is probably a scammer.
4. Government or Federal agencies will not call you to confirm sensitive information
You should avoid giving out sensitive info, such as your Social Security id, to someone who calls you suddenly, even if the person says that he/she is with the IRS or Social Security Administration.
5. You should not get all those scam calls
If a business or company is trying to sell you something, it should have your written permission so that it can call you using a robocall. If you have already been enlisted in the National Do Not Call Registry, live sales call from companies with whom you have not previously done business should be prevented. If someone is calling you, then he/she is breaking the law and there is a possibility that it is a scam.
What are the Common Examples of Phone Scams
Any type of scam call can come your way over the phone. Some of the common angles that phone scammers use include the following:
1. Imposter scams
A phone scammer may pretend to be a person you trust, like a family member, the IRS or Social Security Administration, a love interest, or somebody who claims that there is an issue with your computer. A scammer can have a fake number or name to display on your caller ID in order to convince you.
2. Credit repair and debt relief scams
Scammers will usually tell you that they will fix your credit, lower the interest rates of your credit card, or get the student loans forgiven only if you agree to pay a fee first. In reality, you will end up losing all your money while ruining your credit score.
They might tell you that they will provide you with business coaching, help you kick start your own business, or promise big profits from investments. Do not believe their word. Get to know about the Business Opportunity Rule from FTC, and look into investment opportunities with the state securities regulator.
Phone scammers often pose as charities. Scams that request donations for disaster relief are particularly common on the phone. Make sure that you investigate a charity before you donate, and never feel pressured to give the money immediately.
5. Extended car warranties
Phone scammers usually learn when did you buy your car and what is its make. So, they urge you to purchase worthless or overpriced service contracts.
6. Loan scams
These include advance-fee loan scams, where the scammers target those who have a poor credit history. They guarantee credit cards or loans for an initial fee. Genuine lenders usually do not make such guarantees, particularly if you have a bankruptcy, no credit, or bad credit.
7. Free trials
A scam caller might assure a free trial, but register you for additional products later. Sometimes plenty of products are billed each month until they are canceled.
8. Lottery and prize scams
A prize scam usually involves the caller saying you have won a prize. And then, the scammer will say that you should pay a shipping charge or registration fee to get it. However, after making the payment, you will find out that you have not received any prize.
9. Travel scams
There are scammers who guarantee low-cost or free vacations that can finally cost you plenty of hidden costs. After paying the money, you may find out that there is no vacation. In addition to travel scams, there are timeshare resale scams, involving scammers lying and telling you they will sell your timeshare. They may have a hidden buyer lined up if you make the payment first.
How to Report Phone Scams
Those who have been cheated, have lost their money to a telephone scam, or have info about the scammer or company who called them, they can report it at ftc.gov/complaint.
If you have not lost the money, but you want to report a scam call, then you can use the streamlined reporting form available at donotcall.gov.
You need to report the number, which appears on the caller ID even though you think it could be a fake number. If you have any number you were asked to call back, you should report it too. When you report it to the FTC site, it evaluates trends and complaint data to find illegal callers based on their calling patterns. It also uses additional info you report, such as any names and numbers to trace scammers.
The site takes the numbers you report, which are then released to the public on each business day. It helps partners and phone carriers that are working on call-labeling and call-blocking solutions. The reports also assist law enforcement in identifying the people who are behind illegal calls.
How to Stop the Calls from Scammers
- You simply hang up: If you think you are getting a robocall or an illegal call from a company, avoid pressing any numbers.
- Consider call blocking: Scammers use the internet for making calls from anywhere in the world. They will not hesitate to call you even if you are on the National Do Not Call Registry. That is why you should consider call blocking as the best defense against these unwanted calls. The type of call labeling or call blocking technology you use actually depends on your phone, whether it is a landline, mobile phone, or a home phone, which is used to make calls over the internet.
- Do not trust the caller ID: Phone scammers often make any number or name display on the caller ID, which is called spoofing. Even if it seems like the call is from the Social Security Administration or a local number, it could be a phone scammer in disguise calling from any location in the world.