Scammers in the 2020s have technology at their disposal to make their lives easier while preying on potential victims worldwide. For example, scammers can sit with their feet up while robocalling, firing off hundreds and thousands of automated pre-recorded phone messages in the hope of snaring a few victims.
While spammers are not necessarily committing fraud, they too cause suffering with their indiscriminate, hard-sell tactics. They can use modern technology to access and organize paid lists of real numbers to call. It’s the squeezing-a-tomato-with-a-mallet approach to sales, and advancing technology makes them more of a nuisance than ever.
When brute force methods are combined with fraudulent and malicious intent, things get really nasty. CNBC reported that scammers scammed almost 60 million US citizens in 2021. According to the FBI, losses to cybercrimes, including phishing, extortion, and fraud, exceeded $4 billion in 2020.
Empower yourself in the face of the growing number of scams by learning about how scammers operate, what to do when a call comes in, and taking care of yourself after a scammer contacts you.
What to do Before a Scam Call
The operating system of your smartphone may warn you if it suspects that a caller is suspicious. You can choose to answer these calls warily or not to answer them at all. Protect yourself from being scammed by familiarizing yourself with common scams and how these bad actors roll.
These scammers will probably tell you there is a problem with your account. Maybe your card has been cloned. Whatever the story, they claim that your money is at risk and may ask you to transfer it.
They may ask for account details, including your PIN. Note that banks wouldn’t ask you for a full account number or PIN, so this is a sign of a scammer seeking personal, private information.
Another thing to pay attention to – scammers always rely on your emotions and try to make the issue sound urgent. Take your time to study the situation thoroughly to see if the problem actually exists.
Computer repair scams
These often come from callers claiming to be working for a Microsoft helpdesk. They might claim that they’ve noticed irregular activity or a virus. Rather than helping people, however, they aim to get them to install spyware or make money fraudulently.
Microsoft is the world’s most common operating system so scammers realize there’s a good chance random people will have it. Those who use Linux exclusively will be able to spot a Microsoft scam right away!
Compensation and money claims
In this fake scenario, you are apparently entitled to money. They will tell you that you just need to give the unknown caller your account details. They may ask you to transfer a small amount to release the larger amount.
It’s all nonsense. If in doubt, call your insurance company using the official number on your policy.
These are particularly common. They claim there is a problem with your tax situation and demand immediate money to fix it before it gets worse. Or they might ask for your account details to forward you a refund. They can sound convincing and they time it just right. However, the IRS would never ask for your account details like this.
What to do During a Scam Call
Avoid giving out personal details
Personal details include your account details and PIN. Even if the person at the other end of the line sounds convincing, never give your pin over the phone. If the caller claims to be your bank, know that they won’t need or demand your whole account number.
Take your time
Pressure tactics are the remit of aggressive salespeople and scammers. Go at your own pace. Unless you’re comfortable continuing the call, end it. Never pay for anything right away – double-check all the information.
Yes, end the call
It might seem rude, but it’s 2022. You can hang up. There are many scammers out there and none of us are getting younger. If you feel intimidated or harassed, you have the right to end the call and get on with your life.
What to do After a Scam Call
Use Nuwber to check who called
You can quickly use Nuwber to find out who owns a phone number. This will help you decide whether your call was from a scammer or not.
Ring the organization back
Calling the organization yourself is an excellent way to see if the call was legitimate. Make sure you call the official number that’s on your policy or statement, not a number that the potential scammer gave you over the phone. The organization will normally be interested to learn about a scammer using its identity as it damages their reputation and brand loyalty.
Register with a scam-blocking service
Watch out, because some scam-blocking services are … yes, you guessed it … scams.
To play it safe, note that your carrier may have a call-blocking service for a cost, usually monthly. Some may also have free scam-blocking software that you can install. Some third-party apps include:
* Nomorobo (also works with landlines)
If one number is calling you over and over again, you may be able to use your smartphone to block them.
If using iOS, go to “phone,” then “recents.” Next to the number you wish to block, click the blue information icon, then select “block this caller.”
On Android, go to phone and then recents, then long-press on the number you wish to block. Choose “block.”
Register with the Do Not Call Registry
Once signed up with the Do Not Call Registry, you should see a reduction in nuisance calls within a month. Note, however, that the service only works for sales calls.
Report calls to the FTC
If one caller, in particular, is driving you mad, you can report them to the FTC. While they can’t respond to every complaint, they do take action most times. Your complaint could add to a barrage of complaints that makes something happen. It might also make you feel better.
If you’ve been the victim of a scam, don’t be embarrassed. If it didn’t work, scammers wouldn’t still be doing it. But now it’s time to talk about what happened to help prevent it from happening to others and double down on protecting yourself.
Remember, you are in charge of any call. Don’t give out any private information. Use the services at your disposal to check the caller’s identity. If necessary, block the number.
Technology and carriers are getting better at spotting and stopping scam callers. That doesn’t mean that we should sit back and let the scam chips fall where they may, but, as we travel into and through 2022, we can hope that the right people are on our side and that this aspect of our lives will get easier and safer.