Though phone scams sound old and outdated, they still are common today. Primarily, people who are over fifty years of age are victimized through telephone fraud, but anyone can fall victim. Every year people lose money to telephone scams. Scammers act very friendly, and will sweet talk the money out of people any way they can.
If you get a call from someone who tries to sell you something that you never planned on buying, you should just say, “No thanks” and hang up. If they pressure you to provide your personal information, such as your credit card number, it is very likely that it is a scam. Therefore, you should immediately report it to the proper authorities.
Signs of a Phone Scam
Usually, the scammers operating the phone try not to give you any time to think and figure out their pitch; all they want is for you to say yes. But there are some scammers who are so crafty that they seem happy to comply even when you ask for more information. They may ask you to visit some website, or they might send you some information about their supposed business that features their satisfied customers. These customers are called shills and most likely are fake, as is their praise for the company.
If you hear lines that sound like this, you should hang up and file a complaint with the FTC:
- “You have been specially selected”
- “You will get a free bonus if…”
- “You won one of the valuable prizes”
- “You have won big money”
- “This investment is low risk and provides a higher return rate that can’t be found anywhere else”
- “You have to make up your mind right away”
- “You don’t have to check our company with anyone”
- “You trust me, right?”
- “We’ll put the shipping and handling charges on your credit card”
While this isn't a complete list of the things a scammer will say to try to get money from you, it does show they know how to get people to say "yes". Remember if the offer is too good to be true it probably is. Many scam calls are also often automated messages threating serious consequences if you don't act immediately.
How Scammers Target You
The scammers will use exaggerated or fake prizes or services to catch your attention. Some of them may call you while others may send you emails, texts or ads encouraging you to call them. Some of the offers that you might receive are:
- Travel Packages: You might get offers for “free” or “low cost” vacations, but these may have hidden charges.
- Credit and Loans: During times when the economy is down, some of the most popular schemes that you may be offered are: advance fee loans, credit card protection, payday loans or offers that might suggest lowering your credit card interest rate.
- Sham or Inflated Business and Investment Opportunities: For this purpose, scammers rely on the fact that investing in businesses is a complicated matter; therefore, people do not research about it. Scam artists have swindled a lot of money from people using this method.
- Charitable Causes: Scammers may make urgent requests for some recent disaster relief efforts. These are especially common as phone calls.
- Extended Car Warranties: Scammers wiggle out information about what kind of car you drive and when you bought it so they can urge you to buy some useless and overpriced plans.
- Free Trial Offers: Some companies will offer you free trials for their products, but these can cost you a lot as they bill you every month until you cancel the trial.
More recently scammers have started using their scam tactics to gain access to online banking accounts. They will claim to be from your financial institution as claim to need your online banking credentials to "confirm you identity". A financial institution will never ask you for this information!
Why Scammers Call You
These frauds are not limited to race, gender, age or income. Everyone is a potential target. However, some scammers may target a certain group of people. For example, they might target older people as they believe that they may live alone or that they could be polite towards strangers. They may even target a specific geographic region or customers of a particular business.
Questions that you should ask yourself:
- Who is calling, and why? Usually, the scammers just say that it is a sales call. If they do not provide you with this information, then you should just hang up.
- What is the hurry? Scammers who talk fast and try to pressure you. So you should take your time as most legitimate companies will give you time and written information about their offer.
- If it is free, then why am I being asked to pay? Free is supposed to be free. If you are being asked to pay, then it is a purchase, not a gift or a prize.
- Why should I be confirming my account information or even giving it out? Some of the scammers already have your billing information, and all they are trying to do is get you to agree to something so it can be claimed that you have approved it.
- What time is it? Telemarketing calls can only be made between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. If a seller is calling you any time other than this, then he is breaking the law.
Whenever you receive such calls, keep your cool and avoid handing out your information. Most certainly, do not pay for a “free” gift. You should also get all the information in writing from the callers.
Protect Yourself From Phone Scams
While phone scams seem like an outdated way of scamming people out of their money, they are still very common and often successful. You should know the kinds of calls that are scams and how to easily avoid them. By following these tips, you should be able to avoid common phone scams and slip through the traps set by scammers.
First Alliance Credit Union members do get a discount on ID Shield, comprehensive identity theft protection coverage. Sign up for it today to freeze scammers in their tracks.