10 ways to spot a phone scam
Phone scams are an increasingly easy way for hackers and con artists to get away with stealing information, money, and even identities from unsuspecting victims.
It can happen to any of us, we are all vulnerable and we can easily be mislead if something sounds believable.
It’s quite easy for scammers to conduct phone fraud partially because of the internet. They often collect phone numbers through things like online surveys and competition giveaways.
Phone scammers use many different techniques to fool unsuspecting people. Some of them use automated robocalls, and others claim to be from agencies or large well-known of corporations.
A common scam that we hear about frequently from phone scam victims is whereby a fraudster calls pretending that your computer is infected with a virus or even suggesting they can speed up your slow computer.
The technique they use is where they claim to be from ‘Microsoft’ or some other big company.
Once they’ve convinced you to download some software giving them remote access to your computer, they can begin stealing your confidential data.
Either way, it’s crucial to spot the difference between the legitimate calls and the deceiving ones. A company such as Microsoft will never phone you unless you have requested a call with them.
Here are some ways to know if you are being scammed:
1. You get a silent call with nobody else on the other line
This seemingly innocuous action can be an insidious experiment from phone scammers. Scammers do this just to make sure there is a human on the other end of the line. They wait for a “Hello,” and then hang up a few seconds later. Sometimes, if the scammers are using a machine, the call might begin with a short beep.
2. The caller says that you have won a contest that you never entered
Most people don’t usually enter the lottery each weekend, so it’s doubtful that you entered this drawing. The scammer might say “Well you probably just don’t remember entering this internet sweepstakes” or something of that nature. If you insist that you haven’t signed up, they will probably instantly hang up since they’ve realised that they’ve been found out.
3. They demand upfront fees
One of the most common phone scams happens when the scammer requests money upfront. They may claim to be from a Tax agency or similar organisation. If you have a form of caller ID, you can usually verify if this person is from the organisation they claim to represent.
4. They threaten to bring in police, or other authorities to deal with you if you don’t pay
If they’re not claiming to be from an organisation, then it’s likely that they will threaten to send that group your way. They might argue that being late on your payment will force them to bring forth legal action against you and your family. This threat is quite obviously a scare tactic designed to make people quickly make these payments to avoid getting in trouble.
5. They ask for your credit card number or other valuable information
People from your bank will never ask you to input sensitive data like your credit card information. Even if they are from a trustworthy source, you should always play it on the safe side and only give them your last four digits. You should never give out such information unless you are sure about the person with whom you are talking.
6. The person demands that you use a specific payment method
Some scammers would try and make sure that their potential victim only uses a particular type of payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, which would be quite uncommon if it were coming from any other sort of bank or agency.
7. They claim you have been hacked and that you need to download some special software to help
Many of us are used to those phony pop-up ads that claim “Your computer is at risk!” Ironically, those very same ads will make your computer more at risk by downloading malicious spyware and viruses that you don’t want. Some scammers conduct similar schemes over the phone by saying that you need to download a specific kind of software to save yourself.
8. They try and target the elderly
Unfortunately, seniors are the ones who are most at risk of phone scams, they are most likely to give away money and additional information to scammers. That is why many fraudsters try to entice potential victims by using something that is relevant to older people such as medical devices and other related items.
9. You get a lot of calls from numbers that have the same area code as you
One popular trick that scammers often use is that their numbers have the same area code that you do to trick you into trusting them more. They might fool you into thinking the call is from a friend you forgot to add to your phone or who recently changed their number. However, it’s incredibly common for these same scammers to call back, again and again, using similar phone numbers. They will likely all say the same thing despite having slightly different phone numbers.
10. They instantly hang up once you question them
Con artists and frauds certainly don’t like to be questioned. If you dare challenge them, it’s likely they will either get angry with you or instantly hang up the phone. For example, say you get a call from a company saying that they are helping homeowners save money on electricity. If you aren’t a homeowner, once you tell them so, the person on the other line doesn’t respond. Instead, they hang up the phone as quickly as possible.
It’s a frightening thought to know that every seemingly innocent phone call that you receive can easily be a one-way ticket to your financial doom. Luckily, there are many ways to combat these fraudsters. The most obvious solution is to get a form of Caller ID, though it is worth noting that skilled hackers can find a way to spoof their phone numbers. Another thing to do is to create a block list using TruCaller or another similar app. Block any phone numbers that seem overtly suspicious, because they probably will be calling you again and again.
When you do encounter a strange call, you can always look up the number on the internet and see if anyone else has also complained about it. Then, you can report the number to the relevant authorities, such as Action Fraud, to ensure that they will help put a stop to the scammer’s antics.
To report a scam contact Action Fraud.
Lastly, you should always have a healthy dose of skepticism. If someone is asking for private or personal information, never give it out unless you have requested the call and are sure that the person can be trusted. You wouldn’t give your credit card to a random person on the street, so why would you do it over the phone? Always be careful, and you will stay one step ahead of the scammers.
If you’re a BT customer take advantage of BT Call Protect which allows you to combat those nuisance calls.