Do you receive multiple spam calls a day? You're not alone. Last month, Arizona received 88.5 million unwanted calls. That's approximately 2.9 million calls a day, with the average person receiving 12.6 phone calls. Residents receive phone calls about "issues" with their social security, vehicle warranty, health insurance, and too good to be true offers such as free vacations, cruises, investments, cash prizes, and much more. Unfortunately, those that engage with these calls risk losing thousands of dollars and can expose their personal and financial information to scammers.
Even though you may be accustomed to dealing with scams in emails, text messages, or letters, a phone call can be quite different, and if you're not prepared you may end up putting your personal or financial information at risk. Scammers use various tactics, but these two warning signs will alert you to their scheme.
- The Tone of the Call: Is the caller threatening, demanding, or pressuring you? Any legitimate business or government organization will not threaten you or require immediate payment.
- Method of Payment: Is the caller suggesting an unconventional payment method such as a wire transfer, gift card, pre-paid credit card, or bitcoin? These are all risky methods of payment and are difficult to trace and recover once they are made. If anyone suggests using these for official business, stop and review, it may be a scam.
The best way to protect yourself if you get a questionable call is to stop talking and hang up the phone. If you're unsure about the call, verify the information directly at the source or get advice from someone you trust before providing any payments. Smartphones also have an option to filter calls from unknown numbers.
- On an iPhone, tap Settings, then select phone and turn on "Silence Unknown Callers."
- On an Android, tap Phone, tap the three dots on the top right-hand side, select Settings, and turn on "Block Unknown Callers."
Cell phone carriers also provide call blocker apps to filter calls, and free versions of these apps are also available to download if your carrier doesn't offer one. Google Voice is another free app that will limit your exposure to scammers by masking your phone number and providing you with a new one to use for everyday things.
Even though it's a common practice to return missed calls, you should avoid doing so for unknown numbers even if they look familiar. Scammers can mask their phone numbers to show one with your area code. Blocking individual callers is not recommended as scammers have the technology to call from many different phone numbers.
It's also recommended to sign up for the Federal Trade Commission's Do Not Call Registry to reduce the number of unwanted calls. Sign up for free at www.donotcall.gov, or using the number you want to register, call (888) 382-1222.
While it may be uncomfortable to talk about, it's essential to report a scam, especially if you suffered a financial loss or exposed your personal information. It may help someone else.
Learn more ways to stay safe from scams and fraud on our Keeping Family Safe site.