Be careful of the biggest phone call scams making their rounds this year.
We have all been a victim of a scam or know someone who has. In this day and age we have to be extra cautious about the reality of being scammed and take an extra step in protecting ourselves. These are seven of the biggest phone call scams.
One of the most common scam calls will be from someone impersonating a bank. This is tough, because of all the scams out there, impersonating a bank calling us is probably the sneakiest. A call from your bank isn’t that out of the question. It also makes sense your bank would have to ask several authentication questions to prove your identity.
Adam Levin, founder of global identity protection firm CyberScout and author of a book about security and scammers, says, “If consumers are ever contacted by someone claiming to be from a trusted financial institution, they should never hand over identifying information such as a credit card’s expiration date or security code.”
Oftentimes the scammer could have the last four digits of your card, the card’s expiration date, or even all of the card numbers, but what they are asking for is your pin code or three-digit security code. Under no circumstances should you give this information—or any other identifying information—over the phone.
What’s even worse is that the person calling could even have it programmed so the bank shows up on your caller ID. To be cautious, if this happens the best thing to do is ask for a direct number to reach them at, hang up, then call the bank, and see if that number is theirs and ask if they tried to reach out to you.
A trend that is currently happening is IRS phone call scams. With tax season having just passed, it is not entirely uncommon that someone would possibly be calling about your taxes. However, it would definitely not be the IRS. Why you ask?
Well, because the IRS says so themselves on their website: “These callers may demand money or may say you have a refund due and try to trick you into sharing private information. They may know a lot about you, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request.”
The IRS will only contact you through official mail, so if you receive any of these calls or think something might be going on, or perhaps you might actually owe taxes, you can call them at this number 1-800-366-4484 for more information. You can also report a scam here.
“Can You Hear Me?”
How many times have you picked up your phone when it is ringing only to hear silence, then a voice asks, “Can you hear me?” Of course, your first instinct is to say yes, but that could be a potential scam.
What may be happening is the scammer is recording your voice as you say “yes” and then using it for your agreement to purchase or some other scamming program. CBS News reported on this case earlier this year and said, “If you do answer a call from an unfamiliar number, be skeptical of strangers asking questions that would normally elicit a “yes” response. The question doesn’t have to be “can you hear me?” It could be “are you the lady of the house?”; “do you pay the household telephone bills?”; “are you the homeowner?”; or any number of similar yes/no questions.”
The best thing to do is either hang up or ask them who they are, their name, or answer in another way, like saying, “I hear you fine,” or “loud and clear.”
Another scam deals with government information being requested over the phone, which, by the way, will never happen from any legitimate government agency.
This scams works by having someone call and say you did not show up to jury duty or that you are required to at a future date, or any number of reasons to get you to divulge personal information.
The US Courts website even issued a statement about the current scam: “Persons receiving such a telephone call or email should not provide the requested information, and should notify the Clerk of Court’s office of the U.S. District Court in their area. Contact information for federal courts may be found through the U.S. Courts court locator.”
The caller will ask for things like your social security number, date of birth, address—anything they can use to scam you, usually through identity theft. Be sure to keep this information to yourself.
This scam is one that plays on the good will of others by calling people up and claiming they are any sort of charitable organization, even with the police force or firefighters, and they are asking for donations.
If you agree, they’ll ask for your credit card information and the next thing you know, you’re bank is calling you about unusual charges (and now you’re worried who you can trust!).
Sometimes they may even say gift or cash options are available as well. The best thing to do is tell them to send it to your address or ask for their info and look them up online, and then email them or call them back at the number on the website. Do your research before giving out any money or information over the phone.
The Federal Trade Commision has a list of ongoing scams and information on how to protect yourself, and how to prevent yourself from being a victim.
Your phone rings and when you answer, the person on the other line tells you that you’ve won a free trip to Europe, all expenses paid, and that you’re the luckiest person in the world. Okay, they might not say you are the luckiest person in the world, but they do build up this whole extravagant lie about you winning an amazing free trip, cash prize, car, or anything else you might see on The Price is Right.
You may think there is no way for these scammers to call so many people but with Skype or other online call sites, it’s incredibly cheap for them to have a setup going.
This Huffington Post article explains how to identify a lucky winner phone call. First, it will most likely be an automated call, “Almost every free vacation scam or prize giveaway will start with an automated call that instructs you to call back to claim your prize.” Next, they’ll need your personal information. And lastly, they’ll ask for you to pay up-front fees or show up to an in-person presentation.
Scammers will sometimes scam the elderly by taking advantage of them. They will call and use a crackly phone connection and claim they are their grandkids and that they need money for a number of reasons.
In an interview with CBS, one con artist who was in jail for conning the elderly explained how he would do it. “Asked how a typical call would go, he said, “You just say, ‘Hey, how are you, hi grandma, hi grandpa… I’m in a little bit of trouble right now. If I tell you, just keep it between us, I’m on vacation, but I got into a little accident, and I was arrested for a DUI.’ You tell them, ‘Things got out of control, and I need you to send me the money.” He goes on to explain that about one in 50 would fall for it.
The elderly are scammed out of around $3 billion dollars every year, so warn your parents and grandparents to take caution and always call the grandkid back to make sure it’s really them.