Unwanted phone calls are a nuisance and invade your privacy. But even worse, phone scams could cost you anywhere from a few dollars to your life savings. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to not answer telephone calls from numbers you don’t recognize. Or if you do answer but don’t know the caller, just hang up.
How to Spot a Phone Scam
Telephone scammers often try to hook you with enticing offers, appeals for charitable causes, or claims of being associated with the government. They won’t allow time for you to think through their pitch. They will pressure you to make a decision.
Regardless of their behavior or message, a phone scammer’s goal is to get you to either send them money or provide your personal information.
Below are common warning signs of a phone scam:
- A claim that you have been specially selected
- Use of high-pressure sales tactics and “limited-time” offers
- Reluctance to answer questions about the business or the offer
- Request that you “confirm your personal information”
- Request payment by means other than credit card –including cash, gift card, wire transfer or private courier
- Request your credit card or other payment mechanism for “shipping and handling”
- Use of threats if you don’t comply – even the threat of arrest
- The call starts with a prerecorded message – called a “robocall”
- Claims you have a virus on your computer or requests to log in to your computer
- Claims to be a friend or relative in need of money – but they don’t give you any time to think or contact others
Protect Yourself from Scams and Limit Unwanted Phone Calls
Below are a few ways you can help protect yourself from phone scams.
Enroll in the Do-Not-Call List
To reduce calls from telemarketers and scammers, you can enroll your residential and cell phone numbers with the state and federal do-not-call lists. Both lists are free, but they are separate, so review the terms and policies of each.
- Enroll for free in the federal do-not-call list at www.donotcall.gov.
- Enroll for free in the Texas do-not-call list at www.texasnocall.com.
Note: You can also sign up for the Texas do-not-call list via the telephone or by mail, but you will need to pay a nominal registration charge for each telephone number you include on the list. Allow several weeks from the time you enroll for your number to be removed.
Unfortunately, illegitimate companies and scam artists do not respect do-not-call lists. Therefore, once your enrollment goes into effect, you should be extra careful of unsolicited telemarketing calls unless you know that they come from a company with which you have a legitimate, established relationship.
Use Call Blocking Services
To block unwanted calls on your cell phone, you can download a third-party call blocking app. These apps help detect spam calls by using blacklist databases, blocking numbers that have received a high number of consumer complaints. Learn more information about available apps from CTIA – the wireless industry’s trade association.
Many mobile phones include features built into the phone that will identify suspected spam calls or block calls from specific numbers. For some you may have to manage the list yourself and the phone may have a limit on how many numbers can be blocked, but these features can be used in addition to or instead of third-party apps.
There are call-blocking devices that can be installed directly on your home phone or over the Internet. Not all devices or services work on all types of home phones or carriers, so you will want to check with your phone company before making a purchase.
In addition, many carriers – both wireless and landline – provide call-blocking services. Some carriers offer these services for free, while others charge. You can check your carrier’s website or call customer service for more information.
For more information about resources for blocking unwanted calls, visit the Federal Communications Commission’s website.
What is a Robocall?
It is when you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person.
What Should I Do If I Get a Robocall?
- Hang up the phone immediately!
- Block their number through your phone provider
- Report it.