Although it may sound like a thing of the past, phone scams are still a major problem. The US Treasury inspector general still receives an average of between 9,000-12,000 complaints per week. With the increase of smartphone accessibility in the United States, the amount of phone numbers available has expanded drastically. This growth is optimal for telemarketers and phone scammers because it has grown the volume of accessible phone numbers by nearly 50% in the past five years. As a consumer in today’s digital era, it’s important to understand the economics behind the attractiveness of the international spam call industry and how to identify a scam call to protect yourself from fraud.
So, how do you know you’re receiving a spam call? What types are out there?
You’ll know you’re getting fake calls by the many Blocked, Private, and Restricted numbers popping up on your phone. These can be telemarketers, scammers, pranksters, or even harassers. The most common are:
- IRS: Unfortunately, this is perhaps one of the most common scams which usually targets the elderly. You’ll receive a phone call from the “IRS” telling you that you’re receiving your final notice for money owed. If you do not pay this money you’re threatened with jail time. These scammers know people fear the taxman and hope that their impulse is to call the fake number back and rectify the situation.
- Tech Support: Another scam growing in strength, this one deals with those who are not computer savvy. You’ll get a call pretending to be Microsoft Support that will inform you that your computer is compromised and that you need to download special software to protect yourself. The caller conveniently needs your credit card information through this scenario.
- Sweepstakes: “Free” or “low cost” vacations and other sweepstakes callers claiming you’ve won can end up costing a bundle in hidden costs, or are just a prompt to receive personal information such as home address or even credit card information. Never give personal information to these callers, especially over the phone.
What are some easy ways to identify if the call is truly a scam?
It may be hard in the moment to identify an unprompted caller’s intentions. To help equip you with the tools to unmask the motives behind the call you’ve received, the FTC has found these common denominators and phrases you should look out for when identifying a scam call:
- You’ve been specially selected (for this offer).
- You’ll get a free bonus if you buy our product.
- You’ve won one of five valuable prizes.
- This investment is low risk and provides a higher return than you can get anywhere else.
- You have to make up your mind right away.
- We’ll just put the shipping and handling charges on your credit card.
I don’t want to receive these calls at all, how can I stop them?
The simplest way to minimize your exposure to scam calls is to monitor incoming calls carefully. Start by not picking up calls from unknown numbers. If the information is important or urgent, callers will probably leave a voicemail or find another way to contact you through new digital channels such as email. Follow the steps in our infographic below to identify a scam caller and prevent them from ever reaching your phone again.