How to Identify and Avoid Common Phone Scams
Lots of people have been falling prey to phone scams, as con artists looks to convince vulnerable people to turn over their money for fraudulent services. Who’s most at risk, and what can we do about it?
To many of us, the phone scam calls we receive are obviously fakes. We’ve heard them before, and surely – we reason – no one would fall for this. However, there’s growing evidence that this is part of the plan; scammers are only interested in the very gullible or those who are confused by technical jargon; in some ways, it’s better for the scammers to be overtly fake. They know that if you victim falls for their initial approach, there’s a good chance they may go along with it.
Nearly 1/5 of us has been scammed to some degree. And, to many people’s surprise, it’s not all seniors. Many phone scams target mobile phones, which disproportionately affect younger people. Even children, under the age of 18, are susceptible.
Scammers follow many of the same scripts. They’ll identify themselves as a member of a technical support group – Microsoft Technical Support, perhaps – or a government official. Often they’ll state that “your account will be frozen,” or some other form of immediate risk if you don’t do what they’ll say. They’ll either require money immediately, or access to an account of yours.
If you feel at risk or unsure, there are many ways to combat fraud. First, it’s very rare for these organizations to reach out to you by phone. If in doubt, defer, and tell them you’ll call the organization back at a later point. It allows you to review the phone call, and contact their supposed organization directly. Never provide access to your accounts, screens, or any sort of control of your devices. While it may be embarrassing, ask a family member or a friend if you are unsure. The slight embarrassment of asking a question upfront is nothing compared to the frustration of being scammed out of your hard earned money.
There are technical solutions available. Nomorobo, RoboKiller, or Hiya are third party applications that root out robo-callers and block their numbers. However, these apps are only as good as their robocall list; there’s no guarantee they’ll block all scammers trying to reach you.
It falls on us to be more aware of scammer attempts, and diligent in protecting our information.