Since the invention of the telephone, people have been using them as a way to scam others out of their money. These scams have evolved as technology has evolved, with con artists abandoning old scams and developing new ones in an ever-continuing effort to bilk people of their hard-earned money. While it is impossible to forecast or predict every potential phone scam, there are some basic rules to follow in order to avoid becoming the next victim of a scam. In addition to knowing phone safety rules, becoming familiar with the current phone scams can let you know what to anticipate if you should get one of these bogus phone calls.
The general rule for avoiding becoming the next victim of a phone scam is to avoid giving any identifying information to a caller, for any reason. There is no reason to give your credit card number, social security number, address, or even your name to a person who is calling your phone. Even if the business or charity is legitimate and you want to make a purchase or a contribution, it is a better idea to look up the number and place a call to that organization than it is to give your information to a cold-caller. This is a critical rule, because in every telephone scam the con artist is looking for a piece, or pieces, of information that they can use to steal from you. It is also important to keep in mind that the caller may not actually ask for that information, but may still be doing things to repeat that information. Beware of a caller that calls and makes statements about your family that seem as if he or she has some kind of insider information; the tendency is to correct incorrect information, and doing so provides the scammer with information about you. Many times these callers have a lot of information about you, but you still want to do your best to prevent them from collecting even more information and to avoid saying anything that may be useable.
The best known and oldest phone scam may be the charity phone call. The caller identifies himself and says that he is calling from a charity. The charity is described in glowing terms and often the caller offers you a prize if you make a donation. While this scam may seem obvious, con artists often use it in the wake of a disaster, when people are eager to donate and help others. You should never make a donation to a charity that is cold calling you or agree to any donation at the same time you are being solicited. If the call is from a legitimate charity, ask for a call-back number, research the charity, and call back to make the donation if you decide it is an organization that you want to report. One great way to determine whether a given callback number is actually associated with the organization in question is to use a service like Numberguru.com to reverse lookup the company associated with the phone number of the caller.
The second best known phone scam is the bank alert. The bank alert is so well known because, despite being aware it is a possibility, people continue to fall for it. The caller pretends to be with your credit card company or bank. He informs you that there is some type of suspicious activity on your account and asks you to verify your credit card number or bank account number. If you are hesitant, the caller may respond by threatening you that, if you do not cooperate, then the bank will not be liable for any losses you incur as a result of reluctance to share that information.
Another popular phone scam is based on frightening people into compliance. The most common version of this scam suggests that there is a pending legal action and only an immediate payment will prevent the action from occurring. The caller may say that they are from the police or the Internal Revenue Service. They will ask you to provide your credit card information to make a payment and may attempt to get you to provide other information to verify your identity. The requested information will often include your social security number, date of birth, and legal name. With that information, scammers can do much more than steal your possessions; they can steal your entire identity. One popular theme for these legal scams is for the caller to tell the person on the other end that they are the subject of an I.R.S. action and that if they want to avoid immediate action being taken against them, then they have to pay any arrears. Callers might also pretend to be collecting for red light camera fines, parking violations, or other misdemeanor criminal offenses. They could also pretend to be debt collectors. A recent iteration of the scare tactic phone call is to make the victim fear that his possessions are in danger unless he complies with the caller’s requests.
When the stick does not work, many con artists turn to the carrot. These phone calls tell you all about the big prizes you have won and tell you that you have to pay some sort of small fee in order to access your prize. This scam is familiar to almost all internet users, who have probably received many emails telling them that they have won a great prize and simply need to prove their identity to claim it.
Like the prize winning phone calls, another type of scam preys on human desires. The work at home scam begins with a simple phone call offering the person answering the phone their dream job working from home. However, these jobs are usually non-existent, and the caller is simply trying to get you to spend money on products. Furthermore, even when the jobs are linked to legitimate work, they may not be legitimate jobs, and might be being used, instead, to further criminal activity through money laundering.