We may have entered the digital age, but telephone fraud is still widespread. Once they get you on the line, phone scammers use false promises, aggressive sales calls and false threats to obtain information that they can use to steal your money. Swindlers aren’t just out there trying to make a quick buck though. They want and may use your bank account details, credit card numbers and identity as well.
And new technology makes this covert operation even easier. With auto-dialers, shady companies can make millions of calls for just a few dollars a day. Phone number spoofing tools can trick your caller ID into displaying a real government or corporate number or a seemingly local number to increase the chances of you responding.
Year after year, phone users lose hundreds of dollars. These losses add up, especially when scamming thousands of people at once. In some instances all that the perpertrators need is your phone number and some form of confirmation.
In a dubious phone company, they’d give you a contract and expose you to cramming. On the internet, a shaddy website asks you to confirm your number. Or a strange number calls you and because of your curious nature you call back the number, never noticing what happened.
It’s important to be aware of the different types of phone scams and how to avoid them. We take a look at some of the most common fraud types that happen on the telephone.
- Examples of Cold Calling Phone Scams
- Unauthorized Mysterious Phone Fees
- How To Prevent Phone Scams
Examples of Cold Calling Phone Scams
Whether live or automated, fraudsters often pose as representatives of government agencies or well-known technology, travel, retail, or financial companies and allegedly call with important information. The message can be either good or bad. Regardless of the tone or subject of the message, they will try to get personal information from you or get you to make an immediate payment.
A very common mail and email scam has also made it’s way to the telephones. You are asked to participate in, or even told that you’ve won a foreign lottery. You will typically be asked to provide checking account numbers, credit card numbers, social security numbers, or other personal information.
Veterans of the army receive phone calls stating that their had been changes to their medical plans, and that in order to continue to receive coverage they would need to submit their personal information for verification purposes. There are of course no changes to the medical plans, and the callers where clearly trying to trick veterans into supplying their personal information.
Fake Bank Employee
The most common form of this scam is the victim receives a phone call from a person claiming to work for a security firm at the victims bank. The caller will claim that the victims bank account has been somehow jeopardized. In order to save their account, the victim will need to verify their account and personal information.
Credit Card Offer
A widespread scam in differen parts of the world where the victim receives a call claiming they are eligible for a special credit card. They are asked to submit personal information over the phone so that the application can be immediately processed.
Fake Gift Certificate
This is a scam where the victim is told that they have won a gift certificate from a major retailer. All they have to do is pay a small “processing fee” over the phone with their credit card.
Fake Medical Plan or Insurance
This scam involves tricking unsuspecting victims into signing up for a bogus medical plan. The targets are duped into providing personal information over the telephone. Never provide that information. If you can not recognize whether a deal is fake or not and are potentially interested in an offer, ask if they have an office where you could sign up to the plan personally.
Another common scam is where the caller is told that they have missed jury duty and now have a warrant issued for their arrest. When the caller denies ever receiving a summons for jury duty, the scammer will ask for personal information to verify that they are talking to the correct individual.
Without a doubt one of the most prominent scams throughout the world. The victim is told that they have been awarded a large sum of money in the form of a government grant. In order to collect the money, they need to pay the taxes first. The victim would then be asked for a credit card number or to wire the funds into an account in order to pay the taxes.
Unauthorized Mysterious Phone Fees
Toll Free Numbers
Someone on a website advertises a free service, whether it’s entertainment, dating, or consulting. They tell you to phone their number and complete the steps.
It’s a robocall where they ask you to confirm the free service by recording your voice or pressing some button. You may get the “free” service, but they will charge your phone without warning.
On the bill, you may find it with some generic name. Sometimes, it may appear even as a “long-distance call”.
Urgent! Call Now
A scammer can charge you over $5 per minute for a phone conversation — they just need to keep you for long enough.
First, the scammer envisions the method and purpose of contact. Then collects some basic information and credentials that may entice your persona to get credibility. Then they write this information down on an email, or an SMS.
They may send you this message impersonating an authority: the government, your phone company, or some taxation office. “Something important is going on. Call us immediately!”
If you fall for it, you’ll call the number — only to talk to a person who claims to know nothing about your notice. Ironically, he does have a good pitch to keep you hooked and stay on the line.
Did we mention they charge you for hold-time minutes?
Perhaps you’ve already fallen victim to a dubios offer, so you choose to call for a complaint. Should you? Think twice.
The phone number you want to call may be a number that will charge you high fees. You will be charged, while you are on hold and it may take you hours or even days to get in touch with a representative.
“Our lines are occupied right now. Please, try calling us later.”
Even if you do talk to someone, they will do nothing to alleviate the problem you have and just try to keep holding you on the phone.
Your Order Is On Its Way!
There you have it: a message informing you about the product shipping. Except that you don’t remember having placed any order.
Not surprisingly, the invoice includes a phone number (how convenient!) in case you want to ask questions. What do you do?
Some people would ignore the notice unless they actually charge them. But if you’re worried, you’ll call the number — wasting your time and money.
The Wangiri Scam
This approach relies upon your innate curiosity. Many people would instinctively return a missed call. It’s not unusual to receive dozens of such missed calls in a single day. Usually the numbers are international. All of this might add to the intrigue and pressure.
What happens if you cave? Your call is routed to an expensive premium rate number. You are then coerced into staying on the line for as long as possible. The longer you hold on the line, the more money they ultimately make.
If you don’t explicitly expect a call, refrain from returning calls from numbers you don’t recognize.
How To Prevent Phone Scams
Avoiding becoming a victim of telephone scams is really just a matter of common sense. Any attempt to extract information from you should be an immediate warning sign to just say “no” and hang up the phone. If the caller is from a legitimate company, they will have absolutely no problem with you taking the extra time to do your research and find out if they are in fact legitimate or not.
- Ask your telephone service provider if they offer any blocking tools. Ask your bank or phone company to block any 3rd party charges. Some offer this service and if it’s avilable, you should use it.
- Be wary of any free offers that require your phone number, either online or offline. Some may charge you nothing for the first months, so you stop thinking about this new service you just signed in. And then suddenly a charge appears.
- Request the information in writing about any specific offer. Review the material, but keep in mind that just because it’s in writing doesn’t make it true. Always do your homework on unknown companies and research them.
- Ask for your sales persons information. His name, his company, the company telephone number, mailing address, and business license information. Once this information is provided to you, verify that it is accurate. Many scammers will happily provide you with fake information.
- If you are being solicited to give money to charity, ask what percentage of your donation actually goes the charity, and what percentage goes to administrative costs and other fees.
- Never act impulsively. Take the time to think about the offer, and make an informed decision. Making a decision on the fly is a recipe for disaster. Don’t be pressured into any offer. Authentic companies will answer questions and give you time to consider an offer.
- If an offer sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. People don’t receive free money from the government without applying for a grant. People don’t win lotteries that they never entered. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s most likely a scam.
- Do not pay any registration or shipping costs to receive a supposedly free product or price. Such fees are a trick to get your payment information.
- Be extremely wary of giving important information out over the telephone. If the caller is asking for a credit card, bank account, social security number or any other important personal information, make absolutely sure that the caller is from a legitimate business before giving this information out.
- If you believe that someone is attempting to defraud you, report it to law enforcement agencies immediately.
A little bit of common sense can go a long way in protecting yourself from becoming a victim of phone scams. The next time you receive a phone call that sounds suspicious, stop and think to yourself.
What’s going to be more difficult in the long run? Taking the time to research this offer and company or having my financial information or entire identity stolen?
The answer is clear. Take the extra time to protect yourself from becoming a victim.