Phone calls from scammers are more than just an annoying nuisance, they are one of the most dangerous type of scams.
Phone scams can take on many different forms but they always maintain one common thread — they want your money. These are especially attractive to fraudsters since they can pretend to be anyone and take on any form – such as purporting to be from the IRS, or someone calling to let you know that your Amazon account has been frozen, or even that the extended warranty on your car is expiring.
If you receive a call from someone you do not know, always be cautious with any information you provide and never provide personal information to strangers on the phone.
To combat phone scams, be aware of the following Red Flags when answering the phone.
- You do not recognize the caller ID. Fraudsters can make it appear that a different number is calling you- this is a technique called spoofing. Always be cautious of the person on the other end of the phone, even if you recognize the caller ID.
- You are told you must stay on the line and cannot hang up the phone. Fraudsters use this tactic to isolate you from speaking with someone you trust (family members or friends) and to further enhance their bogus story. Do not feel pressured to remain on the line. These calls are not legitimate, and you should disconnect the call.
- You are told to act immediately for an imminent deadline. Fraudsters prey on your fear and emotions. They want to elicit an immediate response before you can rationally assess the situation. Fraudsters will say just about anything to get you to comply to their requests. Always take the time you need to understand what is being asked of you and to think through what is happening.
- You are asked to pay with gift cards, cryptocurrency, or through a payment application. Legitimate companies, government agencies, and reputable businesses will never ask for payment through these methods. Fraudsters often request these methods because they are quick and they can remain anonymous. If you plan to use applications like Venmo, Zelle, Apple Pay, or Cash App, make sure it is only used to pay people you know and trust as these applications do not provide payment protections.
- You are asked for sensitive information. Fraudsters are often looking for personal identifying information (PII) or your account details. Be cautious with your personal information like your date of birth, social security number, address, etc. Separately, do not provide banking details like your member number, account number, or debit and credit card numbers.
Common Phone Scams Include:
- Computer Support Phone Scams — (Claiming to be from Microsoft, Apple, or IT Help Desks)
- Grandparent Scams — Family members in danger or in jail that need help (or bail money)
- Lottery Scams — Indicating you have won money
- Government Agency Scams — Threatening phone calls from government agencies like the IRS (Internal Revenue Service), FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency), or SSA (Social Security Administration)
For additional information and examples of common phone scams visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website.