A few weeks ago, I told you about how you can filter out spam phone calls. This week, I’m going to teach you a few of the warning signs to look out for if you are one of the unfortunate souls who has to answer every phone call that comes through.
It’s hard to believe that phone calls still play a major role in fraud scams. But despite the fact that most people won’t even answer their phone if they don’t recognize the number, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported last year that of the more than one million fraud complaints they received, 74 percent were phone scams.
The sad truth is that people lose a lot of money to phone scams. And even though we like to think they won’t happen to us, we can never be too cautious. Over the years these scams have become more sophisticated by mimicking numbers that look trustworthy, have local area codes or even familiar names attached to them. There have even been reported instances of people receiving fraud calls from their own phone number.
The good news is, the people on the other end of those calls are using scams that aren’t nearly as sophisticated as their number spoofing software. Most scams use formulaic narratives that are easy to recognize once you know what to be on the lookout for. Below are some of the most common scams and how to recognize them according to the FTC.
The Unentered Lottery
This is one of the most common scams out there. A caller tells you that you’ve been selected for a prize or some kind of lottery you don’t remember entering. But the catch is, you have to send them some kind of cash retainer so you can claim it. That or they start asking you for personal information like date of birth and Social Security number. Don’t fall for it.
Some scammers resort to fear to try and extort people. They will give you a call and pretend to be with some kind of authority, threatening to have you arrested if you don’t fork over payment for some amount they claim you owe. Legitimate representatives from law enforcement or federal agencies will not call and threaten you like this.
A scammer calls you up, complete with fake number and caller identification, claiming to be someone you know, maybe a boss, maybe a distant relative, maybe even someone from a government agency. They are always in trouble and always need you to help by sending along gift cards or prepaid visa cards. Quick tip: if someone calls needing you to send them money in a method that is untraceable and nonrefundable like a gift card, don’t.
The Charity Case
Since it’s that time of year again, be on the lookout for fake charity solicitation. Scammers love posing as charities. If you are planning to give to a charity this year, make sure to do your research beforehand and call the charity directly, or better yet go online and give.
There are plenty of others of course, far too many to list in detail here. But here are a few more should also watch out for: extended car warranty scams, loan scams, debt relief or credit repair scams, one ring scams in which your phone rings once and then you call the number back to find out it is a scam, among many others.
And if all else fails just follow my golden rule, if you don’t recognize the number, don’t answer the phone. If it’s important, they’ll leave a message.
For a complete list of potential scams check out the FTC’s website at consumer.ftc.gov.