Scam calls are becoming a global epidemic. Every year, they break their own records. It’s not an exaggeration to say scammers are taking privacy invasion to extremes. In part, this is owed to lack of knowledge and information about the tools we have at our disposal to help us. Therefore, it’s of paramount importance to avoid giving out your name, date of birth, and Social Security number to a random caller, regardless of whether the call is live. In addition, it also wouldn’t hurt to know how to look up a phone number on Google or a background check service.
They’ll Stop at Nothing
Scammers will stop at nothing – they will even pretend to represent the IRS. A person complained on Reddit that they got a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, who threatened them they’d be arrested if they didn’t pay what they owed in back taxes within 24 hours. The victim was asking on the forum whether the IRS call was a scam; to their knowledge, they had no tax debt.
The IRS never calls taxpayers without sending mail about a tax-related issue before that. On their site, the agency assures that its representatives will never threaten legal action or to contact other institutions because someone didn’t pay taxes. It seems even policemen aren’t safe from such calls.
How to Protect Yourself
It has been estimated that as many as 50% of mobile calls are spam. In 2017, robocalls cost US consumers a whopping $350 million. An obvious approach to take is not picking up the phone. If you get a call from an unrecognized number out of the blue, let your voicemail take it. This is because scammers rarely leave messages. If you haven’t so far, register your number with the National Do Not Call Registry. It’s free, and you can do this by calling 1-888-382-1222 or on their website. Within 30 days of registering, you’ll stop getting spam calls from legitimate companies, which don’t contact people who’ve registered at Do Not Call.
Never Say “Yes”
If you happen to pick up or reply to a voice message from an unknown caller, never say “yes” to any of their questions, even if they ask you a question like, “Are you there?” Moreover, you should not provide any personal information, such as whether you own the property you live in. It’s best to reply to their questions with questions of your own. Ask them why they want this information from you and where they’re calling from. It’s important to not let anything slip, so the sooner you hang up on a suspicious caller, the better.
If you fear you’ve been excessively responsive and got scammed, you should check your credit card and bank statements, as well as cable and phone bills for any charges you don’t recognize. In addition, you should call your provider and dispute unauthorized charges. If the company says you approved the charge, ask for proof. You can also dispute charges by getting in touch with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) directly.
It’s not the DMV
Like the IRS, the Department of Motor Vehicles doesn’t call people without sending mail first. Many scammers claim to be collecting retail, bank, loan, or debit and credit card debt. If you get such a call, hang up and call your loan office, credit card company, or bank to see if the debt claim is legitimate.
You can also use Google Assistant to block robocalls. There are also quite a few apps available on the market for this purpose. The app called “Should I Answer?” for Android phones blocks robocalls for free. It has a registry of spam numbers, and users can share information about very serious offenders. If you use a Pixel phone, Google Assistant can screen calls for you. The assistant, which runs on AI, can answer unsolicited calls for you and provide a real-time transcript. Then, it’s up to you to choose whether to block the caller or pick up.
Your phone company has robocall and spam controls that can block anonymous and unwanted calls. Examples are Scam Block (T-Mobile) and Call Protect (AT&T). What’s more, most phone carrier controls are available at no charge.