Today we will look at phone scams, fraudulent attempts to acquire sensitive information or money by calling victims.
Scammers may pose as representatives of legitimate companies or government agencies and use threats or intimidation to pressure victims into complying with their demands.
Phone scams are a widespread problem, and they can have a devastating impact on victims. In 2020, Americans lost an estimated $29.3 billion to phone scams. And according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), consumers in the United States lost over $59 billion to call scams in 2021, a significant increase from 2020. This number is only expected to grow in the coming years.
Phone scams are a global issue affecting people in many countries, not just Americans.
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There are several reasons why it is essential to raise awareness about phone scams:
- Phone scams are often very convincing; even the most savvy consumers can fall victim to them.
- Phone scams can be very costly, and victims can lose significant money.
- Phone scams can hurt victims’ emotional well-being.
An Example of a Phone Scam
Here’s a recent scam report by a California, USA, person who claims to lose $33,000 in a phone scam:
I received a message on my phone informing me that my phone was locked due to a hacking incident. I’m not sure why, but the person on the line instructed me to stay on the line all day. They claimed to be from my bank and told me that someone had taken money from my account. They further instructed me to go to the bank, withdraw cash, and then go to a bitcoin machine to deposit the amount that was taken. They claimed that the funds would be directly deposited back into my account, and I would be able to reverse the original charges before they were finalized. As a 70-year-old, I would do anything to protect my retirement savings. However, I have no knowledge about bitcoins. The person on the line had me convinced that they were from my bank.
Unfortunately, these types of scams are standard, and scammers often use fear tactics to trick people into giving away their money or personal information.
Get in touch with our affiliated Bitcoin Forensic Investigators at CNC Intelligence for free by filling out the form below.
In this case, the scammer was pretending to be from their bank and claimed that their phone had been hacked and that money had been taken from their account. They instructed her to withdraw cash and deposit it into a Bitcoin machine to recover the money.
It’s important to remember that banks will never ask you to withdraw money and deposit it into a Bitcoin machine. This is a clear sign that the person on the phone is not actually from your bank and is trying to scam you.
If you receive a call like this in the future, here are a few things you can do to protect yourself:
- Hang up the phone. Don’t engage with the caller or provide any personal information.
- Call your bank directly using a phone number you know is legitimate. Ask them if there are any issues with your account.
- Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to help prevent others from falling for the same scam.
Types of Phone Scams
Here are some common types of phone scams that exist:
In this type of scam, scammers pose as representatives of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and call individuals, claiming that they owe back taxes or have other tax-related issues. They may threaten victims with legal action, fines, or even arrest if they do not pay immediately.
The scammers typically request payment through prepaid cards or wire transfers and may try to obtain personal information such as Social Security numbers or financial details.
Tech support scams
Scammers pretending to be from reputable tech companies like Microsoft or Apple call individuals claiming their computers have been infected with viruses or malware.
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They may offer to fix the problem for a fee, request remote access to the victim’s computer, or ask for payment for fake software or services.
Lottery or prize scams
In this scam, scammers inform individuals that they have won a lottery or prize, often from a well-known company or organization. They may ask for payment of fees, taxes, or processing charges to claim the award or request personal information to “verify” the winnings.
However, there is no actual prize, and the scammers are just trying to obtain money or personal details from the victims.
Scammers create fake profiles on dating sites or social media platforms and establish romantic relationships with victims to gain their trust. Once the trust is established, scammers often request money for various reasons, such as medical emergencies, travel expenses, or financial difficulties.
Romance scammers can be persuasive and prey on the emotions of their victims to extract money from them.
Scammers call elderly individuals pretending to be their grandchildren or relatives in distress, such as in an accident or needing bail money.
They may ask for money to be wired or sent through gift cards, preying on the emotions and vulnerability of older individuals.
Scammers call individuals posing as representatives of charitable organizations and ask for donations for a fake cause.
They may use emotional appeals or high-pressure tactics to convince victims to send money, but the donations do not go to a legitimate charity.
Social Security scams
Scammers impersonate Social Security Administration (SSA) officials and call individuals claiming their Social Security number has been compromised or suspended. They may threaten victims with legal action or loss of benefits.
They may ask for personal information or payment to resolve the issue, but it’s a scam aimed at obtaining sensitive information or money.
Common Tactics Used by Phone Scammers
Phone scammers are known to use a variety of tactics to deceive their victims and extract personal information or money from them. Below are some of the common tactics used by phone scammers.
Posing as legitimate entities, such as banks or government agencies: Phone scammers often pretend to be reputable organizations like banks, government agencies, or well-known companies to gain trust and credibility with their victims. They may use caller ID spoofing techniques to make it appear that the call is from a legitimate source. They may then ask for personal information, such as Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, or credit card information, under the guise of needing to verify the victim’s identity or account details. They are trying to steal sensitive information to commit identity theft or financial fraud.
Creating a sense of urgency or fear to pressure victims into complying: Phone scammers often use psychological tactics to develop a sense of urgency or anxiety in their victims. They may claim that a time-sensitive issue, such as an unpaid bill, a legal matter, or a threat of arrest or fines, needs immediate attention. By instilling fear or urgency, scammers hope to pressure victims into making impulsive decisions without thoroughly verifying the legitimacy of the situation, leading them to disclose personal information or make payments without due diligence.
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Spoofing caller ID to appear as a trusted source: Phone scammers often manipulate caller ID information to make it appear that the call is coming from a trusted source, such as a government agency, a bank, or a well-known company. This technique, known as caller ID spoofing, is used to deceive victims into thinking the call is legitimate. For example, scammers may use software or services that allow them to display a fake caller ID that matches the phone number of a trusted entity, making it more likely for victims to answer the call and fall for their scam.
Using emotional manipulation, especially targeting vulnerable individuals like older people: Phone scammers often target vulnerable individuals, such as older people, who may be more susceptible to emotional manipulation. They may use tactics such as pretending to be a loved one in distress, claiming that a family member has been injured or arrested, or using a sympathetic tone to gain the victim’s trust. By appealing to the emotions of their victims, scammers try to bypass their critical thinking and exploit their vulnerability to extract personal information or money from them.
Requesting payment in unconventional forms, such as through Bitcoin or gift cards: Phone scammers often demand payment in bizarre forms that are difficult to trace, such as through Bitcoin or gift cards. They may claim that the victim owes money for taxes, fines, or other fees and demand payment in these forms to avoid detection or identification. This makes it harder for victims to recover their lost funds or for authorities to track down the scammers. This tactic exploits victims’ lack of familiarity with these unconventional payment methods and their associated risks.
How to Spot a Phone Scam
Below are some practical steps that individuals can take to protect themselves from falling victim to phone scams:
Being wary of unexpected calls or messages asking for personal information or money
One of the first and most essential steps in protecting oneself from phone scams is to be wary of unexpected calls or messages that request personal information or money. Scammers often pose as legitimate entities, such as banks, government agencies, or well-known companies, and use various pretexts to extract sensitive information or money from victims.
It is important to remember that legitimate organizations typically do not ask for personal information, such as Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, or credit card information, over the phone or through unsolicited messages.
If you receive such calls or messages, it is critical to exercise caution and avoid providing personal information or making payments without verifying the request’s legitimacy.
Verifying the identity of the caller by asking for official contact information
When receiving a call from someone claiming to be from a legitimate entity, verifying their identity by asking for official contact information is essential. Legitimate organizations usually have established communication channels, such as official phone numbers or email addresses, that can be used to contact them.
Scammers may provide fake contact information or use caller ID spoofing techniques to make it appear that the call is coming from a legitimate source. To ensure the ring’s authenticity, it is advisable to independently verify the contact information provided by the caller by cross-checking it with the official contact details of the organization they claim to represent. This can be done by contacting the organization directly through their official website or customer service channels.
Checking for red flags, such as poor grammar, high-pressure tactics, or threats
Phone scammers often use red flags that indicate the call’s illegitimacy. These red flags may include poor grammar or language usage, high-pressure tactics, or threats. Scammers may use urgency or fear to pressure victims into providing personal information or making payments without thoroughly verifying the legitimacy of the situation.
It is essential to be cautious of such red flags and not to fall for high-pressure tactics. Legitimate organizations typically communicate professionally and courteously and do not use threatening language or create a sense of urgency to extract information or money.
Trusting your instincts and not giving in to pressure
Trusting your instincts is crucial in protecting yourself from phone scams. If something seems too good to be true or feels suspicious, it is vital to listen to your instincts and be cautious.
Tips for Avoiding Phone Scams
To protect oneself from falling victim to phone scams, it is crucial to follow certain practices:
One of the fundamental rules in protecting oneself from phone scams is never to share personal information or financial details over the phone unless you initiate the call.
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Legitimate organizations typically do not ask for sensitive information over the phone, especially unsolicited calls.
Suppose you receive a call from someone claiming to be from a legitimate organization and asking for personal information. In that case, it is crucial to exercise caution and refrain from sharing any information unless you initiated the call and are confident of the authenticity of the request.
Hanging up on suspicious calls and not engaging with scammers
When receiving a suspicious call, it is crucial to trust your instincts and hang up immediately. Be cautious and do not engage with scammers.
It is okay to end a call if you feel uncomfortable or suspicious about the caller.
Researching and verifying any unexpected requests or claims made by callers
Researching and verifying any unexpected requests or claims made by callers before taking action is essential. This can be done by independently contacting the organization they claim to represent using official contact information, such as phone numbers or email addresses obtained from trusted sources.
Please do not use the contact information provided by the caller, as it may be fake or misleading.
Keeping personal information private and not sharing it with unknown callers.
Keep personal information private, and do not share it with unknown callers. Scammers may try to extract personal information, such as your full name, date of birth, address, or Social Security number, during a call to commit identity theft or other fraudulent activities.
Legitimate organizations do not need your personal information unless you have initiated the call or transaction.
Registering for the National Do Not Call Registry to reduce unsolicited calls.
The National Do Not Call Registry is a free service provided by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that allows individuals to reduce the number of unsolicited telemarketing calls they receive. Registering for the Do Not Call Registry can help minimize the number of unsolicited calls from telemarketers, which can help reduce the risk of receiving calls from potential scammers.
To register for the National Do Not Call Registry online, follow these steps:
- Go to the official website of the National Do Not Call Registry, which is operated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
- Click on the “Register Your Phone” button on the homepage.
- Fill out the required information, including your phone number, email address, and zip code. You can register both landline and mobile phone numbers.
- Click the “Submit” button after providing the necessary information.
- A confirmation email will be sent to the email address you provided. Open the email and click on the link to confirm your registration.
- Once you have confirmed your registration, your phone number will be added to the National Do Not Call Registry. Telemarketers will be prohibited from making unsolicited calls to that number within 31 days.
It is important to note that National Do Not Call Registry registration is free and does not expire. However, it does not guarantee that you will never receive telemarketing calls. Specific calls, such as those from charities, political organizations, and companies with which you have an existing business relationship, are exempt from the Do Not Call rules.
If you receive unwanted calls from telemarketers after registering, you can file a complaint with the FTC through their website or by calling 1-888-382-1222.
What to Do If You Receive a Suspicious Call
Awareness of common phone scam tactics and appropriate actions can help protect you from falling victim to phone scams. Here are some critical steps to take:
Ending the call and not engaging with the scammer: If you receive a call from an unknown or suspicious caller asking for personal information or money, it’s best to end the call immediately and not engage with the scammer.
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Reporting the call to the appropriate authorities: If you receive a suspicious call, it’s essential to report it to the relevant authorities, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). These agencies are responsible for investigating and taking action against phone scammers. You can file a complaint online through their official websites or by calling their designated phone numbers. Reporting phone scams can help authorities track down scammers and prevent them from victimizing others.
Contacting your bank or financial institution to verify claims: If a caller claims to be from your bank or financial institution and asks for personal information or money, it’s crucial to verify the legitimacy of the call by directly contacting your bank or financial institution. Use the official contact information from your bank’s website or other reliable sources to confirm the call’s authenticity.
Seeking help from a reputable company or organization: If you have fallen victim to a phone scam and lost money, it’s essential to seek help from a reputable company, such as CNC Intelligence, which specializes in assisting law firms and law enforcement with asset recovery cases.
Phone scams can result in financial loss, identity theft, and emotional distress.
Scammers use deceptive tactics to trick people into providing personal information or money.
It’s crucial to be cautious and take appropriate actions to protect yourself, such as verifying the identity of callers, checking for red flags, not sharing personal information or financial details unless you initiated the call, and reporting suspicious calls to authorities like the FTC or CFPB.
Taking proactive steps, being vigilant, and seeking help can prevent further losses and contribute to combating phone scams.
If you are a victim of these scammers, please let us know by commenting below, and if you have lost a significant amount of money to online scams, do not lose hope. We can help you recover your funds!