These days Internet scams are one of the most commonly talked about frauds due to society’s heavy use of the web, but telephone scams are still widely occurring. While many scammers do turn to email or social media to try and defraud people, many schemers still pick up the phone in hopes of pulling victims into their scams.
Charming scammers often try to appeal to unsuspecting victims by pretending to be calling from a legitimate organization. They may try to pose as a bank representative, government employee, charity representative or an employee of a commercial business. There are even some scammers that pretend they are calling from a local Board of Elections in what’s known as the “jury duty scam”.
All of these scams usually relate in some way to commit financial fraud, either through direct monetary theft or identity theft, the latter of can cause substantial and ongoing problems for an individual. Whatever the intention is to defraud in a telephone scheme, it is always a good idea to be on the alert to avoid getting scammed or caught off-guard by an incoming telephone call.
• Screen incoming calls
These days most telephones are equipped with caller ID, and many communications carriers include it as a part of their regular service. Through caller ID you can screen incoming calls. Ignore any “unknown” callers ringing your line and instead let your voice mail or answering machine pick up,the call. Voice mail and answering machines are also good screening tools; most scammers will probably hang up and not leave a message.
• Do not give out personal information
If anyone calls you and tries to solicit information, especially relating to your finances, credit card numbers, social security number or other like-information, do not give them any details. If you sense the call might be legitimate, ask for a name and telephone number to call them back. Then go online or to a telephone book to see if the number matches up with the one you received a call from or check with watchdog agencies. Never offer up any personal details to an incoming caller.
• Be cautious with bank-related calls
A common scheme is that scammers will impersonate one of the well-known banks or credit card agencies on the odd chance the intended victim might have an account. If it’s a popular bank, the fraudster might accurately identify a customer of the bank they are impersonating with a random call. Visa notes if you did not initiate the call to a bank or creditor, do not give the caller any personal information.
Instead, hang up and call your bank or make a quick visit your local bank branch. Banks can verify whether or not someone called a customer with a certain offer. It is the experience of this writer bank employees are happy to do some research if a suspicious phone call is received by a customer.
• Don’t be pressured
Most scammers will try and pressure their potential victims, playing on emotions to elicit the response they desire in order to commit fraud. This is a common social engineering tactic.
According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), signs of telemarketing fraud are when a caller uses phrases such as “You must act ‘now’ or the offer won’t be good,” or they tell the victim they’ve won a prize. Another type of scheme may offer an opportunity to get in on a great deal to make money or job-hunters may get calls from scammers pretending to be potential employers where scammers have found their name on job sites. Never make quick decisions based on these types of offers. Keep in mind, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
• Check with consumer watchdogs
The FBI also recommends checking any suspicious calls with the Better Business Bureau, state attorney general, the National Fraud Information Center, or other watchdog groups. The agency also recommends not sending money to any charity until they have been checked out. Often scammers will take advantage or a tragedy or cause and try to trick people into “donating” money to help out those suffering and/or in need. Never give out money until you’ve checked to see if the call has come from a legitimate charity.
Telephone scams come in many shapes and forms, and scammers will usually dangle some sort of carrot or play on your emotions to elicit the response they want. And if the individual calling says they are a charity, if the reason for calling is truly altruistic, they will understand if you decide to check them out first and give you the necessary information to call back to make your donation.
Unfortunately, telephone scams are still pretty common, however if you are alert to the types of scams that circulate, and are careful with sharing your personal information, you can avoid falling victim to one of these scams designed to take your money.