Common Phone Scams and How to Avoid Them
Every year thousands of people are tricked by criminals entering their lives via their telephones. Scammers target millions of Americans every year. One of the most infamous phone scams, the IRS scam, has stolen over $14 million over the course of 5 years and its only getting worse. According to AARP, about half of all mobile calls are now fraudulent. Here is what you need to know about phone scams and tips on how to avoid them and what to do if targeted.
Be Aware of the Latest Threats
As with other fraud activity, phone scams change and evolve as the public becomes aware. Which means you need to keep up to date and be on the lookout for an updated version of a scam or something completely new. A good place to look is the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Types of Scams
The infamous IRS phone scam, also known as an impostor scam, where in the scammer purports to be someone you know or a representative from an organization you trust. This scam is especially common around tax season. The caller ID will often show the letters ‘IRS’ in another layer of the scam. Please be aware the IRS does not make threatening phone calls or request wire transfers in order to avoid sending the police.
Additional Impostor scams are Debt Collector and Grandchild Impostor scams. The first being the con-artist pretends to be from a Debt Collection agency offer huge discounts on a debt that you have not incurred. This is often accompanied by a threat as well. Don’t pay any debt without legal documentation. The latter is what it sounds like, and preys on the elderly. An impostor calls claiming to be a grandchild that has come into a dire situation while travelling overseas. The impostor then requests funds to be wire transferred. In this case, call your grandchild phone number or another relative to ensure whether they are indeed in trouble and need help.
Another phone scam we have seen here at Orange County Computer are phone calls from a ’Windows Rescue Center’ advising you that your computer has been hacked and that our information is being stolen from malicious software and they will “help” clean it up once you give them personal details. Another is a call Claiming to be ‘Microsoft’ advising that your Microsoft license has expired and your computer will stop working soon. As with the IRS, Microsoft is not going to call you to renew you license, this is just another attempt to scare you into giving these scammers personal information.
What to do if you have been targeted
There are several steps you can take, the simplest being don’t answer any phone calls from numbers you don’t recognize, if it is important they will leave you a message. Another is register with the Do Not Call Registry and report any numbers that you suspect are scammers. For IRS scams you can call the Treasury Inspector General for the Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484. There are also many apps available for download on your phone to screen calls such as CallerSmart or Truecaller that will screen the phone numbers alerting you if it is a possible robocall. Another service we recommend is RoboKiller, that turns the tables on the scammer wasting their time. Finally you can block repeat offenders by following your cell phone providers instructions.