Online phone scams on the rise, and ways to beat them

With the increase of internet telephony making it easier for people anywhere in the word to call you, phone scams are on the rise. It makes it much harder to stop and convict when the origination of the call might be in another country. They prey on older people that don’t fully understand technology. Perhaps those older people come from a more honest time, or at least a time where it was a lot harder to scam people without getting caught. The con artists are pretty brazen about it, and it doesn’t matter if you are on a no call list or not. There are people that pretend to be the IRS and if you don’t pay your bill they will put an arrest warrant out for you. There are people that will claim they have kidnapped a family member and will kill them if you don’t pay. It can be amazingly scary. How do you know who to trust and can you take the chance it’s not real? Well, there are things you can do, and here are a few.

National don’t call list

Though this only works with more reputable scammers (sounds funny to say), it will at least cut down on the calls you receive. The overseas scam artists won’t slow down though. If you keep getting calls after you are on the no call list, you can make an arrangement with the phone company to track the phone call and sue the company for a few thousand dollars, and it’s pretty much a slam dunk if they have a USA presence. Free money for turning in a phone scammer? How cool is that!

If you don’t know them, don’t trust them

This is the basics of most scams. If you do not know them, then don’t trust them, regardless of what they say. Feel free to listen to them, but the minute they ask you for any personal information, you know they are not real. Just don’t trust anyone. Even if they are real, you are better off not trusting them and a real person would understand. In other words, there is NO deal that is going to come through your phone from someone you don’t know that is going to be good for you. If there is one? Then you can call the company back (again from the number online, the official number not the one they give you). Better yet, if you don’t know them, just hang up and don’t answer if they call back.

Hang up and call back

Anyone that is real will happily give you an account number. You can then look up the company number online and call back, and give them to account number for whatever it is. Obviously do not get the call back number from the people calling, as that will be fake too. If the IRS calls you? Ask them your case number, and then call back the IRS from the number you find online or in the phone book. For extra points, get the call back number from the scammers and then hang up and call the IRS and give them that number for them to chase the scammers.

Check their phone number online

If you have caller ID, which most people do have these days. Make a note of the number and search it online. You can do this for calls that leave messages, or call and hang up. You will be quite surprised at how many people online report them. If someone says they are collecting a debt, and you search online and see 100 people telling you it’s a scam, it makes you feel a lot better.

Personal information

The call may ask for any personal information, but do not give it. Not even if they say they are confirming who you are. If they want your social security number, ask them the last 4 digits. Generally, they only have your name and number, so anything else they are asking for is trying to get inside info. If they have a security question and ask you what you mother’s maiden name is, again, don’t give it, as they can try recovering your bank account password with things like that. Note, this is for calls coming to you. If you call your bank and they ask that question by all means tell them.

Credit card   

Ok, this one is easy, no matter what they say, if they are asking you for credit card information, it’s a scam. Nobody will call you and ask you for your credit card, the IRS, the police, anyone. The one advantage is that you can call your credit card later and fix it for false charges, but do you really want to go through that? So, never give your credit card info to someone that calls you.

Install a program

If anyone calls you to help you fix your computer online, don’t do it. They might say they are Microsoft, or Comcast, or any company that you are familiar with, and give you a reason that your computer has a virus on it or some such and they need to help you fix it. It’s all a scam. They will get you to install a computer program to help them fix it, and that program will allow them to go through your computer and plant a virus or something that can send them your logins to your bank, etc. Never install a program you get in email either, and never install anything anyone tells you on the phone.

Search the internet

If you are unsure, just search the internet. Most scams are there and open to being seen. People report them and explain them. Even if you think it is legitimate? Search for it online, and you will be surprised at how many legitimate-seeming things are scams. Remember, the word “con” in con artist comes from the word confidence. This means you trust them. So again, don’t trust anyone you don’t know, assume they are going to scam you, even if you don’t know how. If someone asks if you trust them, that is pretty much a guarantee that you shouldn’t.

Report the number

Report the number online as well as call the phone company and report the scam and the number they called from. It might be a fake number, but it might give them more evidence to be able to go after the offenders and convict them later. If the scammer is pretending to be a government agency you can call the Federal Trade Commission to report them as well.

Never feel bad about hanging up. We have been raised to be polite and listen, but, the best defense is to hang up and not answer if they call back. There is almost no company these days that will call you on the phone and demand money, and if they do? There are laws in place that you can just tell them to send you a letter and not call again. If they don’t listen, just hang up.  If anyone asks you to do something, anything at all, and you are not familiar with them, just say no.

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