According to a report by CNBC, nearly 60 million people in the United States have fallen victim to scam phone calls and lost money in the last year. Of those, almost 20% have done so more than once. With scam phone calls on the rise, it is more important than ever to know how to protect yourself and your personal information.
Common Types of Scam Phone Calls
Scammers use fear to convince people to provide financial information over the phone. The most common type of scam is caller ID spoofing. Spoofing makes it appear as if your phone call is coming from a legitimate source. In reality, the person on the other end is not who he or she claims to be. Common scams include phone calls claiming to be a representative from the IRS, calls that pretend to be your insurance companies or debt collectors, fake technical support phone calls, and calls saying your family member is in the hospital or has been arrested. Less common but highly effective are callers claiming to be lottery winners or charities.
Register Your Phone Number on the Do Not Call Registry
One of the easiest ways to prevent scam or spam phone calls is to go to www.donotcall.gov and register your phone number. This registry alerts telemarketers that you don’t wish to receive their calls. It takes about 31 days for callers to receive notice that you are no longer accepting calls. However, if you’re still receiving them after 30 days, you can report the callers on the website. Companies who call people on the registry face consequences such as hefty fines.
Don’t Answer Phone Calls You Don’t Recognize
The best thing you can do for yourself and your personal information is to avoid answering phone calls from numbers you don’t recognize. Even if you wouldn’t fall for a scam phone call, answering the phone alerts callers that your number is valid and keeps it on their list, which means they’ll continue to bother you. Dismiss any unknown numbers. If the call is a legitimate one, they will likely leave a voicemail.
Don’t Fall For Every Voicemail
Unfortunately, scammers may also leave voicemails. Robocallers are easy to recognize. Your voicemail will likely be short, silent, or have an obviously computerized voice. Scammers who use actual people to make their phone calls are harder to recognize. They often sound professional, claim to be with a company you have worked with in the past, and may even have a caller ID number that looks legitimate. For this reason, never call the number back directly. If you receive a phone call claiming to be a utility company, insurance company, or some other business you work with, find the company phone number on Google and call it directly. If the business truly contacted you, they’ll have the information on file. If they didn’t, you’ll know to block the number that did contact you.
Don’t Provide Financial Information To Someone Who Calls You
If you have outstanding debt, you likely have debt collectors who call you from time to time. Even if you suspect one is a legitimate phone call, never provide your financial information to someone who called you. They may have found your debt information online or been sold information that could help them take advantage of you. If someone calls you about a debt that you’d like to settle, call the company you owe directly. If they can, they’ll accept your payment over the phone. If they sold your debt to a collections agency, they will tell you which one. That way, you can call the agency directly to ensure the right people are receiving your financial information. When possible, though, it’s best to get a money order and go directly to the company in person. This way, your credit card information is protected.
Above all else, go with your gut feeling with scam phone calls. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Being diligent will protect you and your finances to prevent further issues down the line.