How to Protect Yourself From the Latest Phone Scams

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Last year, the cost of scam calls reached $19.7 billion in the US. If this comes as a surprise to you, then you need to look closer at the statistics. According to a Truecaller report, 1 in 3 Americans has experienced a phone scam at some point in their life. It’s a prevalent threat that leaves millions of people exposed to financial loss each year.

So, staying alert and practicing caution is essential if you want to avoid the latest phone-related frauds. Here’s how you can do that. 

Phone Scams

Phone Scams

1. Stay up to date

As more people become aware of phone scam techniques, fraudsters come up with new and increasingly creative strategies. A good example is the new wave of COVID-related call scams that erupted as the pandemic spread in 2020. Scammers will find every possible opportunity to manipulate and take advantage of innocent victims. And technological advancements equip them with more tools to execute their deceptive schemes. 

So, to protect yourself from scams, it’s essential to keep yourself abreast of new trends and developments. Security blogs, news sites, and social media forums are excellent sources of information to stay updated on the latest types of phone-based frauds.

2. Verify the caller’s identity

A caller ID app can help you identify unfamiliar numbers. But this doesn’t always solve the issue of call spoofing. Scammers often disguise their identity to appear as if calling from a number that’s local, familiar, or representing a reputed organization. When this happens, it could be extra difficult to identify the genuine calls from the fake ones. And to make matters worse, fraudsters will typically imitate the authentic callers to the last detail.

So, despite the familiarity of the incoming number or the voice you hear at the other end of the call, you need to verify the caller’s identity. For example, if they claim to represent a reputed charity, run a background check to verify details. And always call back the organization using a number you may have already saved.

3. Avoid giving out personal information

Criminals often attempt to extract personal information from victims to help initiate fraudulent activities. For example, you may receive a call, supposedly from your bank, asking you to verify your account details and online login credentials. Or someone representing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may ask you to verify your identity by giving out your social security number.

All these are personal information you should never disclose over the phone. Besides, reputed organizations will rarely ask for personal data via email or phone to avoid compromising data security. So when you receive such a request, be extra vigilant and directly contact the respective organization to verify any information requirements.

4. Be extra vigilant about requests for money

Financial motives are behind most phone scams, and fraudsters will devise various strategies to fulfill their goals. And their requests for money could take different forms. For example, scammers that impersonate IRS employees could demand an overdue tax payment. They may even threaten to call the police unless you make the payment straight away. Similarly, a bogus charity could request a donation to support victims of a recent crisis. Or you may receive a call announcing that you’ve won a lottery. And to claim the prize, you will need to pay an admin or processing fee.

These callers will typically appeal to your emotions, for instance, by creating fear, empathy, or excitement. They’ll also create a sense of urgency and try to rush you into a hasty payment. And the payment methods often include hard-to-trace options such as wire transfers, gift cards, money orders, PayPal, and even cryptocurrency payments.

5. Don’t engage

When you sense something’s out of place, the best course of action is to hang up the phone. Avoid engaging with the caller or responding to their requests. Even a simple “yes” “no” answer could lead you into trouble. Scammers could record your responses and use them as consent for their unscrupulous activities. So avoid getting into a conversation or following automated instructions. Just hand up and block the number.

6. Avoid links

Phone calls are not the only way for you to become a victim of a phone scam. Even a text message could lead you into more trouble than you might imagine. Therefore, be equally vigilant about suspicious messages, especially those containing links. These can lead you to virus-infected websites or spoof sites that launch malware or phishing attacks. All these could significantly compromise your personal data.

7. Protect your privacy

According to a First Orion report, scammers knew the address of 4 out of 10 victims. They often come well prepared with plenty of personal information to win your trust faster. It also helps them target specific types of vulnerable victims. This is why, for example, the now-infamous Jamaican lottery scams targeted elderly Americans over the phone.