Money Smarts Blog

Avoiding phone scams: 4 ways to protect your info

Feb 22, 2018 || IHMVCU

young woman wondering if she should answer phone

How many times a day do you get a call from "Potential Spam"? I've literally gotten three just today, and it's not even 2 p.m. Phone scamming is on the rise, but what do scammers want from you?

Answer: Anything that can help them steal your money or identity. This could be your credit card information such as your card number, CVV or expiration date. They could also be on the hunt for your personal information like your social security number or your general bank account information. Basically, they want your money or your identity and are trying to trick the information out of you.

Knowing who to trust can be tricky. That’s why I’ve broken it down into 4 ways you can keep your information safe from scammers.

1. If you don’t recognize the number, don’t answer the phone
This one’s simple and if you can follow this rule, you won’t need to read the rest of this.

The easiest way to avoid phone scams is to only answer the phone when you know exactly who is calling. It can be tempting to answer a phone call that comes from your hometown or even your own phone number, but your best bet is to let calls from any unknown callers go to voicemail. If they truly need to talk to you, they’ll leave a message.

Here’s why:

Scammers frequently use a method called phone/caller ID spoofing to trick your phone network into thinking the caller is coming from a specific location. Meaning the caller could be in California, but it shows up on your phone as Rock Island, IL. Creepy, right?

Typically, when we get these calls they’re referred to as robocalls. You’ll know if you’ve received a robocall because when you answer (which you shouldn’t), you’ll hear an automated voice. The most popular types of automated calls are “people” calling to tell you you’ve won a cruise or have been selected for an offer that you suspiciously never entered a drawing for.

Another popular phone scam is a robot pretending to be the IRS who needs your bank account information RIGHT NOW because you owe back taxes. Some even go as far as to say you'll be arrested if you don't pay right away. Once again, a scam.

2. Never give out your personal info
NEVER, ever, ever, ever give out your personal information. Credit card info, social security number or anything that’s of value to your bank accounts or identity. This information belongs to you and identity thieves/phone scammers are trying to steal it from you. Protect it.

When you’ve been put in a situation where someone is asking for confidential information, think about who they say they are. If it’s your bank or credit union, would they call you out of the blue and request sensitive information? In most cases, probably not. If this happens and you’re suspicious, hang up and call your bank. They can immediately tell you if someone was trying to reach you or if the call was fake. If it was them, no big deal. But if it was a scammer, you just saved your information.

Consider places you’ve given information that you might not think of as sensitive to. Many stores don’t guarantee that your information will be kept private. Stores, reward programs, websites, memberships etc. are always asking for your phone number. But what can be revealed by those 10 digits?

We volunteer to give our phone number to places, but would never give out our social security number so loosely. But  scammers can find tons of personal information through our phone number. For example, they can find your purchase history, your home address or business address.

3. Know who you’re dealing with
If you happen to answer the phone and are suspicious of it being a scammer, make sure you get as much information about them as possible.

Start by asking them who they are, why they’re calling and how it pertains to you. If you’re still unsure of who they are, a quick google search should help. You can start by searching the company they say they’re from and generally it will come up with the latest phone scams from that company.

 There are certain scams that repeat themselves so be on the look-out for these common phone scams: charity donations, debt collection, student debt, loans or credit.

4. Ask to call them back later
This technique will help because 1. you’ll get them off the phone 2. if you call back and it’s a different organization, you know it was a scam and 3. it gives you time to do some research.

If this doesn’t work, whatever you do, don’t ask to be placed on a Do Not Call List. If they’re breaking the law by trying to steal your information, what makes you think they won’t call you again? Also, this could potentially result in more calls than you were originally getting.

Some callers are good at portraying someone else, and you may fall for it.

If this is the case, contact your local law enforcement immediately. The scammers are breaking the law and they should be held accountable. This also helps ensure that no one else in your area will get scammed by the same person.

After you call your local law enforcement, you also need to notify your bank if the call had anything to do with your bank information. They can help you decide your next steps, whether it’s canceling your card or getting a new account number. Whatever you feel comfortable doing, they can help you with.

If you gave them your social security number, you’ll need to contact the social security office to alert them of any fraud or abuse of identity.

Lastly, if the scammer gave you a business or agency name it’s important to touch base with them, too. After all, their name is being abused so they should be in the know. Once they’re informed they can put a warning up on their website so their customers are aware. This will help prevent other people from being scammed too.

If you want another way to protect your money/information check out our blog, “3 reasons you should be paying with your mobile wallet”. Because if you thought I made dodging phone scammers easy, just wait until you see how easy shopping can be.

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