If you have a phone then you most likely have been the target, or possibly the victim, of scam or fraud. While many scammers have started targeting consumers via email and text messages, the telephone, which is easy and cost-effective, is still their weapon of choice. Even if you are on the federal Do Not Call Registry, this might not stop crooks who are out to steal your money or identity. These scammers come up with clever schemes to trick unsuspecting consumers, however a large majority of these individual scams fall under one of the following categories: prize/sweepstakes scams, phishing scams, fake check scams and recovery/refund scams. Know what to expect for each of these common phone scams in order to protect yourself, your money and your identity.
Prize/sweepstakes scams: Although the offer may sound too good to be true, it might be difficult to resist. The caller promises a big prize such as a car or a tropical getaway. It may sound great, but unfortunately it’s probably a scam. However, if you choose to stay on the line, remember to look out for the red flag: some type of fee in order to claim your prize. Whatever it claims the reason is, this should be a obvious sign that this is a scam and to hang up immediately. If you actually win a prize or sweepstakes you will not be charged any fees or asked to verify who you are by providing a credit card number.
Phishing scams: You receive a call from what seems to be a company you do business with, usually a bank or credit card company. These days, don’t bother checking that caller ID because scammers have found ways to mask their true identity. The caller will ask for some type of sensitive information such as a password, PIN or account number. As a general rule, never release secured information over the phone or by email. If it were really the company they should already have this information and would never ask you to release it in such an unsecured manner. When in doubt, hang up immediately and call a trusted number for that company yourself.
Fake check scams: The caller wants to buy something you’ve advertised for sale and they send you a check for more than the amount of the transaction, whatever the fake reason may be. The caller requests that you deposit their check and wire back some of the money. It could take weeks for the bank to discover that the check in question is fake and by then you have sent the money. If you are selling something online, be on the lookout for this type of fraudulent transaction and, as a general rule, never wire money to a stranger.
Recovery/refund scams: If scammers are able to fool you once, they will try to fool you again. The caller offers to help you recover the money you lost, typically claiming they are with the FBI or a different government agency. As soon as they mention any type of fee for this service, immediately hang up. Don’t let these scammers fool you twice and remember that a real government agency will not charge you a fee, ever.
To help eliminate these types of scams and other unfair business practices, make sure to file a complaint with the FTC if you believe you have been the target of or affected by scam or fraud.
For more information regarding telemarketing or telephone scams, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0076-telemarketing-scams#Signs