Here’s How to Fight Against Scam Phone Calls
So, you’ve been wondering how to fight against scam phone calls. With scammers employing increasingly sophisticated tactics, from spoofing genuine numbers to using deceptive vishing and smishing techniques, individuals and businesses are at a heightened risk.
This guide offers a comprehensive look into scam calls, arming you with the knowledge and tools to protect your personal and financial information.
What are Scam Calls: Definition & Types
Scam phone calls are not new, but their evolution has made them more deceptive and challenging to detect. At their core, these calls aim to deceive the recipient into providing personal, financial, or other sensitive information, often leading to financial loss or identity theft.
A scam call is an unsolicited phone call where the caller pretends to be someone they’re not, often mimicking legitimate organizations or authorities. Their primary goal is to extract valuable information or money from the unsuspecting recipient. These calls can range from automated robocalls to sophisticated human-operated schemes.
There are two main types of scam phone calls:
- Vishing (Voice Phishing) refers to scam attempts made via voice calls. The scammer impersonates bank officials, tax authorities, or other trusted entities to extract sensitive information or money.
- Smishing (SMS Phishing) targets victims through text messages. These messages often contain alarming content, urging the recipient to click a link or call a number. Just like with vishing, the end goal is to deceive the person into divulging personal details or making unwarranted payments.
Recognizing and understanding these terms is the first step in building a defense against the threat of scam calls.
The Mechanics Behind Scam Calls
Scam calls are built on a foundation of strategy and opportunism.
Scammers often operate on a numbers game. Targeting a vast audience increases their chances of finding a susceptible individual. It’s like casting a wide fishing net into the sea, hoping to catch as many fish as possible. Even if most individuals recognize and ignore the scam, the few who fall prey can result in significant gains for the scammer.
With automated systems and minimal costs associated with bulk operations, even a minuscule success rate can translate to substantial profits. This efficiency of scale makes scam calls a persistent and lucrative venture for fraudsters.
Where do scammers get your phone number?
In the e-commerce and social media age, our online activities leave behind a trail of digital breadcrumbs. From signing up for newsletters to online shopping, our contact details become part of vast databases, some of which may not be as secure as we’d hope.
Additionally, public records, directories, and other openly accessible databases can be treasure troves for scammers. These records often contain contact details, making it easy for scammers to compile extensive call lists.
Then, there are randomized calls. Scammers make randomized calls using auto-dialers. These systems can dial thousands of numbers quickly, playing pre-recorded messages or connecting the call to a human operator once answered.
And finally, the dark recesses of the internet, often called the “dark web,” host illicit marketplaces where personal data is bought and sold.
Common Scam Call Tactics
As we delve deeper into how to fight against scam phone calls, we must learn to recognize the common tactics scammers employ. By recognizing these tactics, we can respond appropriately. Those who can identify phishing attacks are also more likely to spot a scam call.
One of the most prevalent tactics is impersonation. Scammers often pose as representatives from banks, tax authorities, or other trusted institutions. They craft their narrative to sound urgent, convincing the recipient of the call’s legitimacy.
Fear & Urgency
Scammers understand the power of emotion. Instilling fear or creating a sense of urgency can push individuals into acting hastily, bypassing logical thought processes. Familiar narratives include
- Threats of legal action.
- Claims of compromised bank accounts.
- Urgent requests for financial help.
On the opposite end, scammers might entice potential victims with promises of rewards, lottery winnings, or exclusive deals. The catch? The recipient must often provide personal information or pay upfront to access the “prize.”
To sound more convincing, scammers use technical jargon or industry-specific terms. This tactic is especially prevalent in scams targeting businesses, where the scammer might pose as a tech support agent or a vendor.
Request for Personal Information
Regardless of the narrative, most scam calls culminate in a request for personal or financial information. Whether it’s a bank account number, a social security number, or login credentials, the goal is to extract valuable data.
A more subtle tactic is the silent call. Here, the scammer doesn’t speak when the call is answered. These calls are often used to determine active phone numbers targeted in future scams.
How to Protect Yourself Against Scam Calls
In the battle against scam calls, knowledge is our most powerful weapon. But beyond understanding the tactics employed by scammers, there are proactive measures we can take.
Here’s a list of tips on how to fight against scam phone calls.
Verify Before You Trust
If you receive a call from a purported official entity, such as a bank or government agency, never provide personal information immediately. Instead, hang up and call the institution directly using a verified phone number, not the one provided during the suspicious call.
Regularly update your phone’s software. Manufacturers often release security patches that can protect against known vulnerabilities exploited by scammers.
Use Built-in Features
Modern smartphones have features designed to identify and block potential scam calls.
To block spam calls on iPhone:
- Block Specific Numbers: If you know the number you want to block, you can go to your recent calls, tap on the number or contact, scroll down, and select “Block this Caller.”
- Silence Unknown Callers: To avoid calls from unknown numbers, go to Settings > Phone. Scroll down and turn on “Silence Unknown Callers.” This will send calls from people not in your contacts directly to voicemail.
For a detailed guide, refer to the Apple Support article.
To block spam calls on Android:
- Google Phone App: Open the Phone app, tap the three dots in the upper-right corner and select “Settings.” Tap “Caller ID & Spam” in the Assistive section. Toggle on “Filter spam calls” to block spam calls automatically.
- Block Spammers Manually: Open the Phone app. Long press the number you want to block. Tap “Block.”
For more information, refer to the Android Police article.
Numerous apps are available on app stores specifically designed to combat scam calls.
- Maintain regularly updated databases of known scam numbers.
- Offer real-time call screening.
- Provide user feedback on suspicious numbers, creating a community-driven defense mechanism.
Some of the best spam blocker apps include:
Register on ‘Do Not Call’ Lists
Many countries offer ‘Do Not Call’ registries where citizens can register their phone numbers, reducing unsolicited calls from telemarketers and, by extension, potential scammers.
Stay Calm & Think
Scammers thrive on creating panic. If you receive an alarming phone call, take a deep breath, and assess the situation. Rushed decisions often lead to regrettable outcomes. Banks or government agencies would never ask you to share your social security number via phone call.
Be cautious about sharing personal information online and offline. The less data scammers have access to, the lower your risk.
Regularly Monitor Financial Statements
Regularly check your bank and credit card statements for any unauthorized transactions. Early detection can mitigate potential damages.
Report Suspicious Calls
If you encounter a potential scam call, report it to local authorities or dedicated agencies. Your report can help protect others and aid in apprehending the culprits.
Mobile Carrier Tools
Many mobile carriers recognize the threat of scam calls and offer tools or services to help subscribers filter out unwanted calls. They include features like spam call identification, number blocking, and more.
As we wrap up our comprehensive guide on how to fight against scam phone calls, let’s revisit the main takeaways and emphasize the importance of proactive measures.
- Recognize the tactics and methods employed by scammers, from impersonation to using technical jargon.
- Gain insights into how scammers operate, from casting a wide net to sourcing phone numbers from various avenues.
- Learn the prevalent strategies scammers use, such as instilling fear, offering incentives, and making silent calls.
- Emphasize the importance of verification, staying updated, using built-in smartphone features, etc.
- Explore the tools available, from smartphone settings to third-party apps.
By equipping ourselves with knowledge and utilizing the provided tips and tools, we can live in a safer communication environment, free from the threats of deceptive calls.