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7 ways to recognize a phone scammer

Phone scams have been on the rise, with billions of robocalls targeting U.S. citizens each month. CNBC reported that nearly 1 in 3 Americans admit they’ve fallen victim to a phone scam in the past year. The numbers are staggering and can lead to significant losses to those who fall prey to a phone scammer. Here are 7 ways to recognize a phone scammer.

1 They contact you

This is a big warning sign. Unsolicited calls requesting payment or personal information are typically scams. Many people get duped because scammers have begun using familiar phone numbers. This includes calls looking like they are from someone in your neighborhood or area code. On the flip side, if it’s a number with an area code you don’t recognize, it can also be a scam. The Better Business Bureau warns that there are locations outside the U.S. whose telephone numbers actually look like domestic long-distance numbers. For example, 809 and 284 are area codes in the Caribbean.

2 If there is a delayed greeting it’s probably a phone scammer!

I know I get one or two of these delayed greeting calls every day. If the caller does not respond right away, they are probably using an automatic dialer. It’s possible it is some type of scam. I usually hang up if the greeting is delayed.

3 They tempt you with a prize or offer that’s too good to be true

If someone calls and says you won a big cash prize, a trip, or another large prize, it’s probably a scam. This is especially true when it’s a prize for a drawing you can’t even remember entering. The caller may even pressure you into acting fast before you miss out. There’s no reason to decide anything while you’re on the phone. Don’t fall for this scare tactic. The only thing you might be missing out on is a scam.

4 The caller asks for your personal information

Anytime anyone you did not contact asks for your personal information such as a social security number, financial or credit card account information, it’s probably a phone scammer. Don’t give your personal information to anyone if you don’t know who it is.

5 A caller says there is a problem with your account

This might include a caller contacting you regarding a problem with your social security number, or perhaps an unknown account. Fraudsters often pretend to be from a business, a bank or credit union, or even a government agency. If a caller says there is a problem with your social security number or account or requests that you pay a fine, do not take the bait. Government employees will never call and request money like this.  

6 The caller is requesting money upfront in return for something

Believe it or not, people actually fall victim to this scam and sent money for the promise of a prize or something else of value. Certain phone scammers will request an upfront fee for something. They’ll request that you wire the money or send gift cards. If someone asks you to do this, hang up. This is a scam.

7 The tone of the caller becomes threatening

A scammer might become intimidating and irritable, especially if the call is not going his or her way. That’s a big red flag that something is wrong. Just hang up, it’s a scam.

Common phone scams to watch for

  • Imposter scams
  • Loan scams
  • Debt relief scams
  • Investment scams
  • Prize & lottery scams
  • Travel scams
  • Charity scams
  • Extended vehicle warranty scams

Be suspicious & protect yourself from a phone scammer

Only answer calls from familiar numbers. Don’t get lured by calls that look local. A phone scammer may spoof a local number to look like a more legitimate call. There’s nothing wrong with letting a call go to voicemail. If it’s someone you want to speak to, return the call. Don’t be afraid to hang up on suspicious calls. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

You should report phone scams to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online or by calling them at 1-877-382-4357.  The FTC is the primary government agency for phone scam complaints. You can also report any scams or unwanted calls to the National Do Not Call Registry.  In Pennsylvania, you can contact the State Consumer Protection Offices for assistance with a phone scammer. Finally, contact your phone company. Many have call blocking tools that allow you to block illegal and unwanted calls. They may also recommend call blocking apps for your mobile phone.

Benchmark Federal Credit Union is focused on the financial well-being of all of our members. Tap to read more helpful blogs like this one.

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