False promises and phony threats are just a few ways phone scammers try to get information from their victims so they can steal their money, identity or both.
It's a common problem.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received more than 1.1 million fraud complaints in 2019 in which a contact method was identified, and 74 percent of the time a call was the scammers way in, according to AARP.
The FTC reports that the median loss from a successful phone scam in 2019 was $1,000.
With technology continuing to advance, scammers can now even pose as representatives of government agencies or familiar tech, travel, retail or financial companies, supposedly calling with important information.
How can you identify phone scammers?
The FTC says a common phone scam is to say you were “selected” for an offer or that you’ve won a lottery. "But if you have to pay to get the prize, it's not a prize."
Scammers might also pretend to be law enforcement or a federal agency, according to the FTC. They might say you’ll be arrested, fined or deported if you don’t pay taxes or some other debt right away. The goal is to scare you into paying.
Remember, real law enforcement and federal agencies won’t call and threaten you.
Government agencies also aren’t calling to confirm your sensitive information.
It’s never a good idea to give out sensitive information like your Social Security number to someone who calls you unexpectedly, even if they say they’re with the Social Security Administration or IRS.
Don’t give personal or financial data, such as credit card account number, to callers you don’t know.
Calls pitching products or services with terms that sound too good to be true are also warning signs.
It's always important to independently research any travel deals, charities or business and investment opportunities you hear about by phone.
Be wary of an automated sales call from a company you have not authorized to contact you.
How can you stop calls from scammers?
Hang up the call. When you get a robocall, don't press any numbers. Instead of letting you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, it might lead to more robocalls, according to the FTC.
Scammers are able to use the internet to make calls from all over the world which means National Do Not Call Registry may not fully stop them.
The FTC says your best defense against unwanted calls is call blocking.
Which type of call-blocking (or call-labeling) technology you use will depend on the phone — whether it’s a mobile phone, a traditional landline, or a home phone that makes calls over the internet (VoIP). Check what services your phone carrier offers and look online for expert reviews.
For more information on stopping unwanted calls, click HERE.
Need to report a phone scam?
If you didn’t lose money and just want to report a call, you can use a streamlined reporting form at donotcall.gov.