Believe it or not but every year, thousands of people lose money to phone scams. As odd as it may sound it still happens. We are talking about a few dollars to someone’s life savings. Scams may come through phone calls from real people, robocalls, or text messages. The callers often make false promises, such as opportunities to buy products, invest your money, or receive free product trials. They may also offer you money through free grants and lotteries. Some scammers may call with threats of jail or lawsuits if you don’t pay them.
Report Telephone Scams
Reporting scams to federal agencies helps them collect evidence for lawsuits against people committing these scams. However, federal agencies don’t investigate individual cases of telephone scams.
- Report telephone scams to the Federal Trade Commission, either online or by phone at 1-877-382-4357. This is the primary government agency that collect scam complaints.
- Report all robocalls and unwanted telemarketing calls to the Do Not Call Registry.
- Report caller ID spoofing to the Federal Communications Commission either online or by phone at 1-888-225-5322.
Also report the scam to your state consumer protection office. Some consumer protection offices help residents resolve consumer problems.
Scammers use any kinds of tactics such as exaggerated, fake prizes, products or services as bait. Some may call you, but others will use mail, texts, or ads to get you to call them for more details. Here are a few examples of “offers” you might get:
- Travel Packages. “Free” or “low cost” vacations can end up costing a bundle in hidden costs. Some of these vacations never take place, even after you’ve paid.
- Credit and loans. Loans, protection, and offers to lower your credit card.
- Sham or exaggerated business and investment opportunities. Promoters of these have made millions of dollars. Scammers rely on the fact that business and investing can be complicated and that most people don’t research the investment.
- Charitable causes. Urgent requests for recent disaster relief efforts are especially common on the phone.
- High-stakes foreign lotteries. These pitches are against the law, which prohibits the cross-border sale or purchase of lottery tickets by phone or mail. What’s more, you may never see a ticket.
- Extended car warranties. Scammers find out what kind of car you drive, and when you bought it so they can urge you to buy overpriced — or worthless — plans.
- “Free” trial offers. Some companies use free trials to sign you up for products — sometimes lots of products — which can cost you lots of money because they bill you every month until you cancel.
How to Protect Yourself
Remember these tips to avoid being a victim of a telephone scam:
- Register your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry. You may register online or by calling 1-888-382-1222. If you still receive telemarketing calls after registering, there’s a good chance that the calls are scams.
- Be wary of callers claiming that you’ve won a prize or vacation package.
- Hang up on suspicious phone calls.
- Be cautious of caller ID. Scammers can change the phone number that shows up on your caller ID screen.
- Research business opportunities, charities, or travel packages separately from the information the caller has provided.
- Don’t give in to pressure to take immediate action.
- Don’t say anything if a caller starts the call asking, “Can you hear me?” This is a common tactic for scammers to record you saying “yes.” Scammers record your “yes” response to use as proof that you agreed to a purchase or credit card charge.
- Don’t provide your credit card number, bank account information, or other personal information to a caller.
- Don’t send money if the caller tells you to wire money or pay with a prepaid debit card.