We’ve all received a call from an unknown number and upon answering, cue the automated recording claiming to be a legitimate business. These calls are illegal and commonly known as robocalls. Robocalls are becoming increasingly common - in 2018, nearly 47.8 billion calls were placed.
With technology becoming more sophisticated, it’s made it easier for robocallers to gather information from public directories to target you and auto-dial hundreds of numbers for a very small price. Though these illegal calls are becoming an epidemic, there are ways to properly identify robocalls to protect your assets.
The first step in recognizing robocalls, is to know the common tactics scammers use. With caller ID, we may receive calls that look like local numbers, only to answer and realize it’s a robocall. How? Robocalls hide their true location to show local numbers. This tactic, caller ID spoofing, creates trust which increases the odds you’ll answer. Upon answering, the robocall can claim to represent a government agency, utility provider, offer free cruise trips or even low-interest loans.
The goal is to steal your money or account information, so do not engage. You should never provide personal information like social security number, credit card account information or pay for goods over the phone that require wire transfers or paying with prepaid cards. As a rule-of-thumb, if it seems suspicious or too good to be true - it probably is! If you did not request information from a company or someone is demanding you act now in regards to providing your personal information, end the call and do your own research.
Another robocall scam to be aware of is the “can you hear me?” question. Upon answering, “yes,” you’ve given the scammers a recording of your voice where they can use it to authorize the purchase of a charge. Sneaky, right? To differentiate a scammer from an actual company, try avoiding straightforward answers. With hesitation, responses like “I can hear you just fine,” or “Why do you need to know this information?” are valid. If it’s an actual call center representative, they should be able to answer your questions. Robocallers may be thrown off, so it’s a good way to know if you should continue with the call or hang up immediately.
You might have also noticed calls that prompt you to press “1” to be removed from the call list. Much like email phishing scams, you’ll want to avoid engaging because it could lead to more robocalls. When you engage, it gives scammers the heads up that; 1). You’re willing to answer calls from unknown numbers and, 2). You will follow the directions within the call. When in doubt, don’t press anything.
How to Avoid Robocalls
Though there is no fool-proof way to rid yourself of all robocalls, there are steps to take to avoid receiving them:
- Report scams to the Federal Trade Commission via phone or online. The FTC collects scam complaints and can use them to shut down scammers illegally using the phone system.
- Add your number to the Do Not Call Registry, telemarketers will not call if your number is listed, making it easier to spot robocalls.
- For mobile devices, there are multiple options for call-blocking apps to help assist in an extra layer of protection for robocalls.
Now that you’re aware of common scams, be mindful that not all robocalls are automated. These calls can come from live scammers pretending to be a representative from a company. Protect yourself by taking the steps to register your number, report robocall numbers and never give credit card or SSN information over the phone.
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