Phone Scams Affected Nearly 60M Americans In The Past Year — How To Identify Them

Photo by Thomas B. | Pixabay

How Do I Know It’s A Scam?

  • If someone calls you saying you won a lottery, but you have to pay to get the prize, it’s not a prize. It’s a scam.
  • Real law enforcement and federal agencies won’t call and threaten you. Scammers, on the other hand, will call and pretend to be those government agencies and say you’ll be arrested, fined, deported, etc. if you don’t pay due taxes or some uncleared debt immediately.
  • If someone coaxes/pressurizes you into deciding whether you want to use an offer or not right away over the phone, beware! Most legitimate businesses will give their customers time to think over offers and decide. They also typically send over written communication before asking you to commit to anything.
  • Never wire money to someone you’ve not met, or put money into a gift-card based on a conversation with a stranger over the phone, or pay using a prepaid/cash-reload card or a money transfer app. For many scammers, the goal is to get their victims to pay in ways that make it difficult to get the money back.
  • No government agency will call you and ask you to confirm sensitive information over the phone, such as your Social Security number. Beware, even if the person calling says they are with the Social Security Administration or IRS.
  • To begin with, you should not be getting all those calls at all. If a company is selling you something, they need your written permission to call you with a robocall. If you’re on the National Do Not Call Registry, you should not be getting any live sales calls from companies you have never done business with before. Such calls are illegal (more on that in the next section)
  • It’s best to avoid answering calls from unknown numbers altogether. Let it go to voicemail instead, most experts say, according to the CNBC article we mentioned earlier. In particular, if you can see from the number that it’s a call that appears to be coming from a state in which you have no connections — i.e., no relationships to people or companies there — then you should definitely let those calls go to voicemail
Image Source: FTC

Robocalls Are Mostly Illegal

  • Purely informational messages, from flight cancellations to appointment reminders, etc.
  • Debt collection calls, as long as the company that is calling to recover its debt does not try to sell you services to lower your debt, which would be illegal and are almost certainly scams
  • Political calls about candidates running for office, etc.
  • Some healthcare provider calls, like a pharmacy calling to remind you to refill a prescription
  • Messages from charities, provided you are a prior donor or a member of the charity. But they also have to include an automated option that would let you elect not to receive future calls.




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Biometrica Systems, Inc.

Biometrica Systems, Inc.

We’re crime fighters and technologists, who focus on public safety, workplace safety, customer safety, child protection, and human trafficking.

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