How to Handle Phone Scams

Beware of Scammers

 

Phone scams are prevalent especially since scammers can manufacture phone numbers. Many scammers call from outside the country, making their real numbers suspect. By using Voice over Internet Protocol, scammers can link a new number to a phone, computer, or other electronic device to trick their victims into believing their outrageous claims.

The best way to avoid phone scams is to use a caller ID and call blocking app. If the caller has a legitimate reason for calling, he will leave a voicemail. This also applies to telemarketers who circumnavigate the federal Do Not Call list.

Types of Scams

The list of phone scams is seemingly endless with more being invented every day. Fraudsters call regarding anything that might get a response from their victims from Medicare offers to IRS scares to utility company demands for payment. If you are suspicious of a phone call you have received, check it out online before making any financial commitments. Callers demanding payment for taxes, utility bills or mortgage payments are often fraudulent. Call the company directly to make sure the request is valid. Also, be aware that the IRS never calls anyone on the phone; they always send letters in the mail.

Examples:

“Can You Hear Me?” The caller asks you questions to get you to say “yes.” The answer can be altered and used to show agreement to the scam. If you must answer in a positive way, find another word to agree. Following are just a few popular scams:

  • Car Accident. The scammer informs the target that a family member has been in an accident.
  • Kidnapped Relative. The caller demands money for the safe return of a kidnapped family member. The scam is also known as the “Grandparent Scam.”
  • Unpaid Utility Bill. Someone posing as a utility company worker threatens to cut off the utility unless paid immediately.
  • Free offer/lottery winnings. Caller tells the victim that he has won a prize or a free vacation.
  • Government Employee Impersonator. Someone calls claiming to be an employee from the IRS, Social Security office or other agency.
  • Credit Card Services. Caller states he is from your credit card company inquiring about suspicious charges, lower rates or another service. Asks for your social security number or other vital information.
  • Medical Coverage and Benefits. This scam targets seniors more than any other group. Caller scares target into thinking his medical coverage is insufficient.
  • Lower Your Interest Rates. The scammer details how you can save on credit card or loan interest rates.
  • Tech Support. The caller says he is from tech support. He reports a serious computer issue on your system. The “technician” offers to fix the issue for a fee.

Reporting Scammers

Reporting fraudulent calls may seem futile, but it does help to curb the activity. Law enforcement should be notified regarding calls designed to defraud or harm the victim. Take the following steps to report suspicious activity.

Identify the Type of Call You Received

Telemarketer: A telemarketer is anyone that attempts to sell a product or service. To stop the calls, sign up on the Federal Do Not Call Registry. It may not stop the calls, but it will help. Block all unwanted numbers.

Debt Collector: Someone calling to collect a debt should be able to provide you with account information, amount due, contact number, and address. Tell the caller you will return the call at your convenience. If the call is legitimate, contact the collection agency via snail mail, requesting that they stop calling you. Legally, they must obey.

Scammer: Telemarketers must obey the national Do Not Call Registry. This should prevent telemarketers from calling and if you do continue to receive these types of calls you should report them. You only need to sign up one time per phone number.

Report the Call to the Authorities

Once you have determined that the call you received is a scam, report it to the proper authorities. Local law enforcement can warn other citizens since scammers often target specific areas.

  • All Internet-based scams, including romance and tech support scams, should be reported immediately to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, an agency operated by the FBI.
  • Calls from the IRS should be reported to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).
  • Consumer-related phone fraud should be reported to the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant. Consumer-related scams include free vacation or prize scams, lottery and sweepstakes scams, energy bill scams, loan and credit card scams, tech support scams, fraudulent debt collectors, medical alert scams, fake charities, and telemarketers in violation of the Do Not Call list.
  • Contact the Federal Communications Commission to report telemarketers and fake debt collectors using ID spoofing.

Block the Number

Aside from not answering calls from unknown numbers, you can block a phone number with the press of a button. Scammers use many phone numbers but placing a block will reduce the number of calls you receive.

Avoiding Identity Theft

Avoiding identity theft is becoming more difficult every day. Thieves target much more than credit cards these days; they may steal social security numbers, driver’s licenses, passports, green cards, visas, addresses, tax returns, phone numbers, and more. It might seem nearly impossible to avoid identity theft altogether, but there are some measures you can take to protect yourself from crime.

Guard Your Phone

Most of us have become thoroughly attached to our phones. So much so that the majority of our personal information is stored inside. While it is certainly convenient, it can also be a nightmare if your phone is lost or stolen. To protect yourself and your information, password protect your phone with a code, fingerprint or facial recognition software. There are a plethora of apps on the market that will help you to identify unwanted callers and potential thieves. Additionally, store the information in a place an identity thief may not think to look such as a document titled, “family recipes” or “medication schedule.”

Password Protection

Most websites offer password protection, often including several layers of security. Features may include multiple secret questions, pin numbers, or secondary verification through email or text. While those are helpful features, they won’t prevent an identity thief from pulling that information from your computer if it’s not protected as well.

Identity Theft Monitors

As identity theft grows, so do the number of companies that offer protection. Information can be obtained in many ways, including a breach of credit bureaus, credit card or utility companies. You may not know for months if your information has been stolen. While companies typically assist in fixing the problem, it can take years to get things back to normal.

If you’re going to invest in a monitoring company, do your research to find the one that best fits your needs.

Limit Card Use

Using a card instead of cash has its benefits. It eliminates the need to carry cash or checks and, in some cases, it’s much faster to get service. It is also easy to track expenses. However, thieves are always developing new ways to steal your information and use it for gain. Try to limit your card use when shopping in grocery stores and gas stations where it’s easy for someone to peer over your shoulder and get your information. They often employ tools like gadgets that can swipe your info at gas pumps or as you pass by, completely unaware of what is happening. You can also get theft prevention wallets that will block electronic scanning of your cards.

Shred Documents

It might seem simple but shredding your documents is an effective way to deter theft. You might reserve the shredder for financial documents when, in fact, identity theft can occur with less sensitive items such as phone bills, magazine labels, and junk mail. If something has your name and address on it, be safe and shred the item. If you have a large amount of material, use a commercial shredding company or burn it.