You already know that there are numerous common phone scams. You may think you’ll know the difference between a legitimate call and a scammer, but when the call comes from a company you regularly do business with or are actually expecting a call from, it’s easy to slip up. Never assume that an incoming call is legit. Period. If you don’t recognize the incoming number, it safest not to answer the phone at all. But even if you do, it might not be real. Some scammers have the technology to fake the information that shows up on your caller ID.
The safest thing to do is simply not answer and let them leave a message. There is a recent scam where callers will record your voice saying “yes” to steal your money by using the recording as authorization for credit card charges or bank drafts.
If you do get a voicemail from a company you recognize and want to call them back, don’t just use the number they left for you. Look it up for yourself and make sure you are calling an authentic number.
If You Do Answer
If you get a call from someone who says they are with a company you normally do business with, do not assume it’s legit. Never give them any information. Always hang up and call the company back at a number you know is its real number. For instance, the phone number that is printed on the back of your credit card or on your bank statement.
Examples of the types of companies that scammers pretend to be include:
- Credit card company
- Power or phone company
- Internet provider
- Microsoft, Dell, and other computer-related companies
- Bill collector
- Courthouse – jury duty
Some will ask for your Social Security Number to verify your identity before proceeding. Don’t give it to them, even if you think it’s a real call. Simply tell them you don’t give that kind of information to people who call you and that you will call the company directly.
Others, such as the fake Microsoft or Dell callers will ask you to get on your computer and do something. Don’t do it. Just hang up.
Of course, you know better than to give them your credit card number. Right?
Some scammers use scare tactics to get you so frazzled that you just blurt out information or even give them money before you’ve had a chance to think about it with a level head. There are a couple different types:
- Those who ask for your SSN
- Those who demand money immediately
These scammers make threats. They may say that you or someone you love will go to jail if you don’t pay up immediately. These typically include the jury duty scam and fake “IRS” calls. In a similar scam the caller pretends to be from your power company and threatens to turn shut off your service if you do not pay within the hour.
With both types of threats, the scammers will often direct you to go buy a prepaid credit card and use that for payment.
Learn more about the IRS Phone Scam and how to recognize fraudulent callers.