As smartphones have become a part of our daily routine, it’s only natural that they have become the target of scammers as well. You’ve likely been the target of these efforts already. Random phone calls from unknown numbers (that may ring only once before hanging up). Strange text messages with dubious links. Alerts that you’ve been selected for a prize. If you have received these before and found them suspicious, you had good reason to – all are common scam tactics. Thankfully, if you follow your intuition and take some commonsense precautions, you can prevent these tactics from actually working. Here are ways to protect yourself from phone scammers.
The simplest, most effective way to avoid being scammed over the phone is to pick up only from known callers (or answer texts from known individuals). If the caller ID is blocked or the call originates from an unknown number, don’t answer it. If the call is legitimate, the person on the other end will leave a message and provide you with call-back information. You can then call the person back if you wish. However, if he or she (or it) doesn’t leave a message, do not call back. In some cases, this can actually lead to fraudulent charges being levied against your phone. As a general rule of thumb, if in doubt, don’t pick up!
It’s inevitable that at some point you’ll end up speaking to an actual person on the other end of the line. This person may represent a legitimate business interest, they may not. The key point to remember is that unless you know for a fact that the person on the other end can be trusted, your best bet is to approach with caution. Never provide personal information, including financial information, to an unknown person over the phone (or an automated call). If the caller asks for a credit card number, social security number, your mailing address, or banking information, hang up. Even if you believe the person is trustworthy, take the extra step to have everything put into writing – be wary of free trials and never pay upfront, deposit a check, or wire funds.
If you pick up the phone and it’s a recorded message (what is commonly known as a robocall), hang up and report the number to the FTC. Though robocalls from non-profits and political organizations is allowed, the practice is illegal for the sale of goods or services. Hanging up is the simplest and most effective way of avoiding being scammed. Furthermore, if the recorded message prompts you to dial a number on your touch pad to have your number removed from the call list, don’t. Taking this action could lead to additional calls to “confirm” that this step was intentional – and such calls provide the caller with further opportunities to scam you. It bears repeating, if the number is blocked or unknown, your best bet is to simply not answer.
Simply going with your gut will likely help you avoid being scammed. If something seems suspicious or too good to be true, it likely is. Remember, in these scenarios, the potential downsides far outweigh the upsides, so you have little reason to hesitate or second-guess your suspicions. If you are seeking additional means to fight off phone scammers, you can further protect yourself with cell phone plans that feature anti-scam technology, like those offered by T-Mobile. These plans do most of the work for you by blocking numbers from known scammers, and alerting you of suspected scammers and scams. In combination with your own instincts, you can easily avoid fraudsters who are committed to exploiting you for financial gain.
The bad news is that phone scammers are real. The good news is that with a little bit of effort and commonsense, you can safeguard against scammers and protect your personal information and financial assets. Use the steps outlined above, and the likelihood of falling victim to a phone scam is very slim. In fact, these methods can help protect you against all kinds of fraudulent efforts, including email and Internet scams. If something seems fishy, it probably is. Don’t take the bait!
CEO and Founder at Mighty Shouts.
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