You have probably received phone calls from scammers. Not only are they annoying, phone scams can be costly. Nearly 1 in 6 Americans have lost money to a phone scam according to a 2019 report from the phone app Truecaller. So how can you keep yourself safe?
Sometimes it’s hard to know what is a scam and what isn’t. First, learn what the most common phone scams are and what the red flags are.
According to US News, the most common phone scams:
- The IRS
- Computer technical support
- Fake charities
- Lottery scams
- Bank fraud
- Insurance and warranties
Now let’s look closer at some of these scams.
Calls from the IRS
In this scam, someone will impersonate an IRS agent. They may threaten you with arrest if you do not pay immediately. They may also ask you to pay in gift cards.
- The IRS will never call you. If you are in trouble with the IRS, they will send you a letter.
- The IRS will not send police to your house.
- You will never be asked to pay the government with gift cards.
Technical Support Calls
In this scam, someone pretending to be from Microsoft or Apple will tell you that your computer has a problem. They will walk you through how to “fix” it, but they are really tricking you into installing malware on your computer.
- Tech companies will never call you – if there is a problem with your computer, your computer will usually tell you.
Fake Charity Calls
Scammers pretend to be from a charity to get your credit card or banking information when you donate. These calls often happen when natural disasters occur.
- If it’s legit, they can send you something in the mail.
The scammer will tell you that you have won money from a contest that you don’t even remember entering. There are other calls that tell you that you’ve won a free cruise. To get the prize, all you have to do is pay money.
- If you didn’t enter a contest, how did you win?
- You should never have to pay to get a prize.
Bank Fraud Calls
Someone may call pretending to be your bank or credit card company. The scammer may tell you that fraud has been detected on your account. Then they start asking you for all kinds of sensitive data, like your Social Security Number, your account number, your birthdate etc. Do not provide this information. If you get this call, hang up and call your bank immediately to confirm.
- Sometimes your bank or credit card may call you if they suspect fraud- this is true. But they only need to ask you enough info to confirm you identity, like the last four of your Social or your birthdate. Remember, they already know your account number; they don’t need to ask you for it.
- Set your accounts up so that you get text message and email alerts. If I get a call from my bank, I’m also going to get a text, an email, and possibly a push notification from my banking app.
Sometimes you will get calls to sell health insurance or auto warranty insurance.
- Never buy insurance over the phone. If this offer is legitimate, they can send you information in the mail.
- Do you even have a car warranty? My car is 14 years old; it’s been out of warranty for well over 10 years. Clearly, when I get these calls they are a scam.
- If you have a policy that is expiring, you will get notices in the mail from your insurance company.
Important things to keep in mind.
- You will never have to pay for things with gift cards.
- Don’t give out information over the phone to people that you do not know.
- If something is important, they can mail you information.
- Customer service reps will never be rude to you, threaten you, or swear at you.
For more information
- Check out these episodes of Planet Money
- Learn more from the FTC