Phone Scams: What Are They and How Can You Avoid Them?

Phone Scams: What Are They and How Can You Avoid Them?

As we become increasingly dependent on our smartphones, our smartphones are increasingly becoming targets for scammers, fraudsters, and con artists. And not just for email phishing and online scams, but for phone scams as well. It’s important to keep your guard up when it comes to the use of your phone. Modern phone scammers have many tactics at their disposal. Having an understanding of common phone scams and the tactics employed can help you avoid them – and being a victim.

What Are Some Common Phone Scams?

Knowing what to look out for can help you avoid being the target (or victim) of a scam. Here are some common types of phone scams that it pays to be on the lookout for. If you answer and the caller is unknown to you, overly aggressive, seeking personal or financial information, or is a robocaller, hang up immediately and report the number to the FTC.

Robocalls – Robocalls for sales and promotions are illegal. Only robocalls for political initiatives and non-profits are allowed by the FTC. If you answer the phone and there is a robocaller trying to sell a product or service, seeking personal information, or originates from any source other than a political party or non-profit, hang up.

Aggressive Sales Calls – If you pick up the phone for an unknown caller and the person is acting overly aggressive, being pushy, or is trying to sell a product or seeking personal information, hang up the phone. The caller may or may not represent a legitimate business interest. As a general rule of thumb, you should never pay an upfront deposit, provide personal financial information, or buy a product without getting the offer in writing and verifying the source.

Calls that End Abruptly – In some cases, scammers will call from an unknown number and abruptly hang up. These are known as “one ring” scams. The goal of this tactic is to get you to call the number back. Do so and you may find a surprise charge on your phone bill. The numbers that these types of calls originate from are often pay numbers (and may in fact originate from overseas); when you return the call to find out who the caller is, you are charged a fee that is in some cases exorbitant.

Unknown Numbers – As a general rule of thumb, if you don’t recognize the number, don’t answer it. If the caller is legitimate, he or she will leave a voicemail message. Unknown callers may fall into any of the categories above. When it comes to phone scams, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

The “Can You Hear Me?” Scam – A recent phone scam involves a person on the other end of the line asking if  you can hear them. When you reply “yes,” this response is recorded and later used as authorization to charge against your account. If you receive a phone call, whether from an individual or a robocaller, and you hear this question on the other end of the line, hang up immediately.

How to Avoid Them

Thankfully, if you use a bit of commonsense and take simple precautions, you can avoid phone scams – and the risks that they pose. Take the precautions below and you can avoid being the victim of a phone scam.

Don’t Pick Up from Unknown Numbers – The easiest and most foolproof way of avoiding phone scams is simply avoiding unknown numbers. If you don’t recognize the phone number that the call is originating from, don’t answer. It’s that simple.

Don’t Return Calls from Unknown Numbers – If you receive a call from an unknown number and the caller fails to leave a voicemail message, don’t return the call. It’s possible that the number the call originated from could be a pay number; if you return the call, you could be in for a surprise on your phone bill.

Get Cell Phone Plans with Protection – Some wireless carriers, like T-Mobile, offer cell phone plans with scam protection. Among the features these plans offer include scam alerts and the ability to permanently block suspicious phone numbers. If you want additional peace of mind, a cell phone plan with scam protection might be the perfect solution for you. After all, as the old saying goes, you can’t be too safe.

Do Your Research – Some services, like Know Your Customer, allow you to investigate and research unknown phone numbers, email addresses, property addresses, and even individual names prior to committing to a purchase. If you are one of those individuals who likes to take extra precautions prior to making a purchase, these services can help ensure you don’t fall victim to phone scams, fraudsters, and con artists.

Don’t Become a Victim Yourself

Now that we use our smartphones for everything, they’re a natural target for scammers and fraudsters. Thankfully, you can avoid becoming a victim yourself with some commonsense precautions. Scammers and con artists are after your personal information, banking information, and in some cases, cold hard cash. Don’t let them – be vigilant and you can avoid becoming a victim yourself.