Hold the phone!
Telephone scams still remain the top threat to consumers. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that in 2018, 69% of all reported scams were phone scams. Once a scammer has you on the phone, they will attempt to fraudulently take your money with heavy handed sales pitches, empty promises and phony threats—whether live or automated.
The latest phone scam has been coined the “One Ring” scam. Here, the scammer’s goal is not to get you to answer the call after the first ring, but rather to get you to call back. Your phone will ring once and end. You think you missed the call so you ring the caller back. You may get an actual person or possibly a recording. As you’re waiting to figure out who’s on the other end, high interconnect fees are adding up, similar to calling a 900 number, and you’re racking up high phone bills while you wait. The phone number on caller ID will most likely appear to be an in-country call, but many of the calls are actually being trafficked from overseas from areas that also start with a 3-digit code making it appear as if it’s a USA based call. Some of these scammers may also be using additional spoofing techniques to make it even more difficult to discern that it’s a scam call.
Each minute you’re on the phone with the caller, the more money you’ll lose and most likely not get back. Often these calls happen in the middle of the night when prospective victims are more vulnerable due to not having their wits about them having been woken up and assuming there must be some sort of emergency. Below are must-know tips on how to avoid the latest “One Ring” phone scheme and other phone scams currently circulating:
Don’t Answer Unrecognized Numbers. If you don’t recognize the phone number or have the caller in your contacts, don’t answer the phone. If a caller you don’t recognize calls back more than once, but does not leave a message, block the caller. These calls are typically trying to get you to agree to something that will inevitably cost you money. It’s also advised to avoid answering the phone with an unrecognized number in the middle of the night when you’re less likely to have your wits about you. The caller is banking on the fact that you’re not fully awake and more likely to fall into their fraudulent trap. If you accidentally answer the phone and it’s a robocall, hang up immediately. Robocalls are illegal if the company calling you has not done business with you in the past month.
Use Reverse Phone Look-up Apps. Reverse phone look-up apps help you to identify phone numbers, names associated to the number and sometimes addresses. So the next time you miss a call and aren’t familiar with the phone number, instead of calling the number back, first do a reverse phone look-up. There’s a free reverse-phone lookup for landlines at Zabasearch, or you can just enter the phone number in Google and see what pops up.
Don’t Follow Pre-recorded Messages. If a prerecorded message comes on after answering a call, asking you to “Press 1” to speak to a live operator or press any key to get taken off a call list, you’ll most likely start receiving more robocalls and become a victim of phishing.
Do Not Give Out Personal or Financial Information. If a caller asks you for personal or financial information (such as social security number or credit card information) or requests that you confirm a number they already have, you’re being duped by a fraudster. Many scammers ask people to wire money. This should be a red light you’re being scammed and it is impossible to reverse cash when using wired money. If a seller keeps on insisting you to wire transfer for making payments, do not act unless you are sure about the authenticity of the deal.
Do Add Your Phone Number to the Do Not Call Registry. Unfortunately, scammers are always one step ahead of everyone which makes it nearly impossible to totally stop fraudulent calls. It will however make them easier to spot because most legitimate telemarketers won’t call you if you’re on the registry, register here.
Block Incoming Numbers on Your Cell Phone. Most cell phone providers allow you to block an incoming number to your cell. After the call comes in, follow your provider’s instructions for blocking the number from calling you again.
Set-up “Anonymous Call Rejection.” Call your phone provider to find out if this option is available for your landline. It lets you screen out calls from callers who have blocked their caller ID information—a tactic of telemarketers.
Use a Call Blocking App or Device to Screen Calls. A call blocking app such as Truecaller or PrivacyStar will help you to screen calls and weed out spam and scams. Ask your phone-service provider if they offer any blocking tools as well.
Sign-Up for Nomorobo. Nomorobo uses a “simultaneous ring” service that detects and blocks robocalls on a blacklist of known offender numbers. Similar to the Do Not Call Registry, it’s not infallible but adds a layer of protection. It’s free for landlines and subscription based for mobile.
Avoid the Word “Yes” if You Do Answer the Phone. Many robo call scams will start with the caller saying “can you hear me.” If you say “yes”, they record your response and use it to claim that you agreed to a monthly service or subscription.
Check Phone Bills for Unidentifiable Charges. Always look over your phone bill and check carefully for suspicious numbers. Report any questionable numbers to your phone company and the FTC.
Limit Sharing Your Phone Number. Think of your phone number in the same way you do your social security number and limit how often and to whom you give it out.
Report Suspected Phone Scams. If you encounter a suspected phone scam or an abusive telemarketer, file a complaint with the FTC online or at 877-382-4357. It’s also helpful to notify your state consumer protection office.
While there is really no time of the year that you are safe from robo and spam calls, they do tend to ramp up during tax time, election season, over the holidays, travel seasons, as well as when hurricanes and other weather disasters strike. Be vigilant and aware. These scams are consistently changing so it’s important to stay informed in order to protect yourself.
Justin Lavelle is Chief Communications Officer for Been Verified and a leading expert in phone scams. BeenVerified is a top source for reverse phone technology so you can quickly check who is associated with the phone number that’s calling and avoid answering scam artist calls.