Technology has rewarded us with many things, including convenience and entertainment, but it’s also made it easier for criminals to plan, target, and steal. In some cases, all it takes is a phone call and you’re swindled.
Phone scams are nothing new. However, the way they’re executed can get you when you least expect if you’re not paying attention. How many of you answer calls from unfamiliar phone numbers? Do you ignore them for good or do you let your curiosity get the best of you and call back? Do you shoot a text?
Don’t! Even though you may be signed up on a “do not call” list, stragglers still find their way through. Looking to take your personal info and your money, they’ve come up with a few techniques to get you to authorize charges, sometimes with your own voice.
Typically, these suspicious calls are originating from the same group of area codes. We’re going to tell you how the scam works so you can protect yourself:
The One Ring
The phone will ring once, but the caller will hang up before you can answer. If you are interested enough to call back, then that’s when the charges begin. Call back and you’ll be connected to an international number and that expensive call will be billed to your account.
Sometimes the numbers look like domestic U.S. (or Canadian) numbers, but they’re either international or are being cloaked. Scammers often use apps for “spoofing”, which means they can disguise their real numbers to make them look like legit local or national phone numbers. Do not answer and do not call back.
The Robocall for HelpEdar via Pixabay
You might get the one ring. Or you answer, and a fake recording of someone in distress or screaming for help is played. You either stay on the phone or call back if the caller hangs up. Your callback is either diverted to an international number or the caller proceeds to ask you for personal information, including credit or bank credentials.
One of the other tricks they use is getting you to say “yes” or answer a series of personal questions so they can record your voice. With that, they can virtually steal your voice to open doors for unscrupulous activities.
The Text Phantom (Smishing)
Instead of a phone call, you’ll receive a text message asking for you to respond. Again, the phone number may look like it’s domestic, or come from one of the area codes below. The message may also be written as if it’s someone you know who needs help, or requesting you to verify personal info (like bank accounts).
If you respond, you can be charged hefty fees for texts to international numbers, but these types of texts will often ask you to click on a link. Don’t do it! Your phone could become infected with a virus, or other sensitive information like passwords or financial details could be stolen.
If you’re wondering how to distinguish between a call you can trust and a scammer, disregard these area codes when calls roll in:
- 809, 829, 849, 876
- 664, 649
For a complete list of area codes, check out this article at inc.com that discusses the latest phone tricks that criminals use.
Constant phone calls and harassment from international callers can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission. If there’s a problem with charges to your phone bill, try contacting your service provider first or escalate it to the FCC.
Your best protection? Avoid taking calls from these unfamiliar numbers, and don’t provide personal information to strangers. Contact your bank (or other business) directly even if someone claims to be a representative. And don’t buy into “you’ve won” opportunities that pop up from nowhere.
Law enforcement agencies point out that the elderly and teenagers are among the most vulnerable to fall prey to these scams, as they are most likely to respond to mysterious calls or texts. Ignore the call!
Have you ever been a victim or almost-victim of a phone scam? How did the caller attempt to lure you in?