(4 Minute Read)
Phone scams are a real threat. In 2017, one in ten Americans reported being a victim of phone scams. On average, people were scammed out of $430 each to the tune of $9.5 billion in all. Two years ago 3.7% of phone calls were scam calls, but it’s estimated that the percentage will rise to 44.6% in 2019. This is a problem that is clearly expected to get worse. Here are some of the more common phone scams and a few ways you can protect yourself from them.
Social Security Scams
In this scam, someone calls the victim pretending to be the Social Security Administration or the IRS. Sometimes they threaten arrest or that they will withhold payment if you don’t call them back. In other cases, the caller will offer to assist the victim with a bogus problem that may threaten their social security payment. They do this in order to scare the victims into giving up valuable personal information that could lead to funds being fraudulently transferred from their bank account or identity theft.
The best way to combat this is to remember that these organizations rarely make phone calls to people that don’t currently have business with them. If you get a call from somebody who identifies themselves as an IRS or SSA agent, hang up. These agencies will never call you, but your best course of action is to call the local branch at an official number and inquire whether there is a problem with your account. It cannot be stressed enough that you should never give any personal information like a social security number over the phone unless you can verify the caller as completely genuine.
Fake Charity Scam
After a natural disaster or another terrible event, it’s common for people to try to raise money to help the victims. While most people’s hearts are in the right place, some people use other peoples’ misfortune as a chance to make a quick buck. While many of these fake charities reach out through the phone, they can also solicit you via email and fake websites. Basically, they will ask you for a donation to help a worthy cause and possibly try to get your personal information in the process. While you might think that you are doing good, you are actually lining the pockets of thieves.
The best way to find out if the charity that has reached out is on the up and up is to run their name through the IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization Search. Next, you should hang up the phone, do a search on the site, then do a quick Google search to find a verified phone number for the organization that you want to donate to. It shouldn’t be so hard to help out victims of a disaster, but unfortunately, these scams are popping up more and more these days. Make sure that your money is going to the right place, so victims of these disasters get the help that they need.
The Grandkid Scam
Grandparents are known to be protective of their grandkids. This type of scam takes advantage of that instinct. Here an elderly person gets a call from someone claiming to be their grandchild. The caller will then tell the victim that they have been in an accident or are in legal trouble and that they need money now. In the past, these scammers will ask for gift cards or that you send the money through a wire transfer. Retailers who sell gift cards have been getting savvy of this as well as places that do wire transfers and have begun asking questions if elderly people try to purchase a gift card or perform a wire transfer. This has made these forms of payment unreliable to the scammers, who have now begun asking people to send cash through the mail.
If somebody asks you to send them money by gift card, wire transfer, or through the mail, your best course of action is to verify the identity of the caller. This shouldn’t be too hard if the caller is claiming to be a loved one. Just remember that you can’t necessarily trust the number that comes up on your caller ID. Scammers can “spoof” the number to match the phone number of anyone they want. Instead, hang up with the person on the phone and tell them that you need to call them back. Then call, from your contact list, them back. Chances are when you ask about the accident or legal trouble, they won’t have any idea what you’re talking about.
Internet Pop-Up Scam
This one starts on the internet but usually ends up on the phone. Sometimes people get an unsolicited email which is actually a trojan horse. It might contain a link it wants you to click on or a file to download. Don’t do it. Ever. Unless you signed up for an email list or it’s from a company you have recently done business with. If you click the link or download, a file will then be downloaded to your computer which will cause pop-ups on your browser. These are typically called trojan viruses or malware. This pop-up might alert you that something is wrong with your computer and give you a number to call in order to get it fixed–for a fee. In fact, these people will even go as far as identify themselves as working for Microsoft or Apple directly. They will then instruct you to let them remotely control your computer and show you fake files that indicate that a virus exists on your computer. While they are “fixing” your computer, they are actually rooting around your computer’s files in order to find bank account numbers and passwords. Bank accounts have been wiped clean due to these scams.
One of the biggest red flags that you are dealing with a scammer is bad grammar and unprofessional looking websites. A real, professional company pays good money for their website and emails to look top notch with well-written copy. If an email or website gives you a bad vibe, don’t click on anything and navigate away from it as fast as possible. If you end up getting a pop-up ad telling you that you need to call a number to get something fixed–ignore it and call somebody in your family who knows about computers or take it to a local computer repair shop to get it fixed. It’s also important that you make sure that your computer has up-to-date virus software that will take care of any of these trojan horse viruses before they can affect your computer.
When answering your phone these days, it’s important to remain diligent. You need to verify who you are talking to while making sure that you don’t give out any valuable personal information. If there is ever any question about the authenticity of a caller, simply hang up and use the internet to get to the bottom of who they are. Don’t be intimidated either, no matter how much they threaten there is little action they can take to hurt you. If the caller is legitimate, they should be able to prove who they are in a calm and professional manner. If you think that you’ve been a victim of a phone scam, report it to the FTC immediately.
At Life Settlement Advisors we hate to see people fall victim to phone and internet scams. Hopefully, this article will help you avoid being a victim of a nefarious scammer in the future.
Life Settlement Advisors