Avoid Phone Scams
Article Provided by: Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov
People lose a lot of money to phone scams — sometimes their life savings. Scammers have figured out countless ways to cheat you out of your money over the phone. In some scams, they act friendly and helpful. In others, they might threaten or try to scare you. One thing you can count on is that a phone scammer will try to get your money or your personal information to commit identity theft. Don’t give it to them. Here’s what you need to know.
How to Recognize a Phone Scam
Phone scams come in many forms, but they tend to make similar promises and threats, or ask you to pay certain ways. Here’s how to recognize a phone scam.
There is no prize.
The caller might say you were “selected” for an offer or that you’ve won a lottery. But if you have to pay to get the prize, it's not a prize.
You won't be arrested.
Scammers might pretend to be law enforcement or a federal agency. They might say you’ll be arrested, fined, or deported if you don’t pay taxes or some other debt right away. The goal is to scare you into paying. But real law enforcement and federal agencies won’t call and threaten you.
You don't need to decide now.
Most legitimate businesses will give you time to think their offer over and get written information about it before asking you to commit. Take your time. Don’t get pressured into making a decision on the spot.
There's never a good reason to send cash or pay with a gift card.
Scammers will often ask you to pay in a way that makes it hard for you to get your money back — by wiring money, putting money on a gift card, prepaid card or cash reload card, or using a money transfer app. Anyone who asks you to pay that way is a scammer.
Government agencies won't call to confirm your sensitive information.
It’s never a good idea to give out sensitive information like your Social Security number to someone who calls you unexpectedly, even if they say they’re with the Social Security Administration or IRS.
You shouldn't be getting all those calls.
If a company is selling something, it needs your written permission to call you with a robocall. And if you’re on the National Do Not Call Registry, you shouldn’t get live sales calls from companies you haven’t done business with before. Those calls are illegal. If someone is already breaking the law calling you, there’s a good chance it’s a scam. At the very least, it’s a company you don’t want to do business with.
How to Stop Calls from Scammers
Even if it’s not a scammer calling, when a company is calling you illegally, it’s not a company you want to do business with. When you get a robocall, don't press any numbers. Instead of letting you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, it might lead to more robocalls.
Consider call blocking or call labeling.
Scammers can use the internet to make calls from all over the world. They don’t care if you’re on the National Do Not Call Registry. That’s why your best defense against unwanted calls is call blocking. Which type of call-blocking or call-labeling technology you use will depend on the phone — whether it’s a cell phone, a traditional landline, or a home phone that makes calls over the internet (VoIP). See what services your phone carrier offers, and look online for expert reviews. For cell phones, you also can check out the reviews for different call-blocking apps in your online app store.
Don't trust your caller ID
Scammers can make any name or number show up on your caller ID. That’s called spoofing. So even if it looks like it’s a government agency like the Social Security Administration calling, or like the call is from a local number, it could be a scammer calling from anywhere in the world.
Learn more about unwanted calls and what to do about them at ftc.gov/calls.