Consumers are losing stacks of money to phone scammers. In the last 12 months alone, over 23% of Americans have been duped over the phone, with estimated losses of nearly $30 billion, according to a Truecaller scam report.
Scammers have come up with many ways to cheat unsuspecting targets out of money over the years. While some fraudsters act friendly, like they want to help you, others may threaten you and use pressure tactics to scare you.
However, no matter the situation, scam callers will often giftwrap existing scams, taking advantage of the latest developments at home or overseas to get your financial and personal information to commit identity theft and fraud.
Since COVID-19 became a global problem, telephone scammers have been relentless in using the health crisis to prey on vulnerable and frightened individuals. While we’re on the subject, the ongoing pandemic will undoubtedly continue to serve as a hook to scam users.
Vaccine-related topics, bogus surveys, charities and government relief programs are just some of the subjects a scam caller might touch on when contacting you.
In other scams, the fraudster may impersonate a well-known company you dealt with in the past, a financial institution, the police or even a tech agent that will try to convince you something is wrong with one of your devices.
Here is a list of the most common ruses and tactics used by phone scammers:
- They impersonate federal or law enforcement agencies and suggest you’ll be arrested, fined or deported if you don’t make a payment on the spot
- Scammers will contact you stating you’ve won a prize or a lottery, but you need to pay for shipping or transfer fees
- They impersonate the IRS or Social Security Administration calling to confirm sensitive information such as your SSN
- They call to propose business or investment opportunities
- Scammers often impersonate charities
- The scammer may state he’s from your bank, and say you need to confirm your credit card information, PINs and other sensitive data
- A so-called tech agent calls and says you’re having hardware problems or that your device is infected with malware
Take these basic measures to help protect yourself from the most common phone scams:
- Treat every unsolicited phone call with skepticism. Scammers can spoof calls to make it look like they are coming from a legitimate source.
- If you’re offered a prize, a free trial or are asked to make a payment, hang up immediately and block the number
- Never disclose personal details such as PINs, passwords, bank or credit card numbers as no legitimate business or government agency will ever ask for this information
- Never let an unknown caller access your computer, as they will steal your data by installing malicious software
- Ask the caller a lot of questions about the business, products or services. Phone scammers particularly hate getting inquiries and will try to rush you into providing your info
- Do your research before accepting any offers, and contact the legitimate institution using official communication channels
Following basic safety measures and staying on top of the latest scams can help fend off fraudulent attempts. However, even if you’re doing everything right, bits and pieces of your information may still end up in the wrong hands by mistake or due to a data breach.
Check out Bitdefender’s Digital Identity Protection service to find out what the internet knows about you and if your data was involved in a data breach. The dedicated online privacy service proactively scans the web for data related to the information provided when you sign up (e-mail address and phone number) so that you can start taking more privacy-focused decisions to protect against fraudulent attempts.