Scam calls are phone calls you may receive that are unsolicited, spoofed and claim to be from someone or a company they’re not. For example, you may receive a phone call claiming to be law enforcement and while the caller ID and location may match a legitimate police department, it has been spoofed to look legitimate.
There are a few ways you can prevent receiving scam calls such as getting an app that blocks them. While this is an easy step to stop receiving most scam calls, there’s no way to stop receiving them completely.
Read on to learn more about scam calls, how they work and the common types of scam calls that have been reported.
How Scam Calls Affect People in the U.S.
According to Truecaller, 68.4 million Americans reported losing money from phone scams in 2022, which is up 23% from 2021. The average reported loss to scam calls in 2022 increased by 14.9% compared to 2021 and the average amount that was lost through these calls was $577 – the highest average amount of money lost since 2014.
How Do Scam Calls Work?
Scam calls work by getting you to believe a false scenario or by the caller pretending to be someone they’re not. Typically, scam calls are facilitated by real people or through robocalls. Robocalls are calls that are prerecorded and sent through auto-dialing software. Friendly reminder, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) states that robocalls trying to sell you something are illegal and the only exceptions are if the caller has written permission from you to call, if the call is purely informational, or if it is from a healthcare provider, a debt collector or a message from charity.
What makes scam calls so believable to recipients is that they’ll use social engineering tactics to get the recipient to believe they’re a person or a company they know. Scam calls have gotten more advanced now that scammers can make any name or number show on the caller ID, which is known as spoofing. Through spoofing, scammers can also make it look like the call is coming from someone who is in your local area. This is known as neighbor spoofing.
Common Types of Scam Calls
Here are a few of the most common scam calls to look out for.
Law enforcement scams
Law enforcement scam calls have become increasingly common in recent years. Through these types of scams, the caller impersonates someone from law enforcement such as a police officer or sheriff’s deputy. They then try to convince the victim that they need to pay them, and if they don’t, they’ll be arrested. They use fear tactics so the victim is persuaded enough to send them money. It’s important to remember that law enforcement will never make an unsolicited phone call of this nature and they’ll never ask you for money over the phone.
If you believe you’ve received a scam call pretending to be law enforcement, make sure you report it to the FTC and your local authorities.
IRS scam calls happen more frequently during tax season, but also occur year round. Through this type of scam, the caller will pretend to be someone from the IRS in an attempt to get you to reveal sensitive information or demand an immediate payment. The caller will threaten legal action if you don’t do what they say. The IRS will never call you requesting any information or payments. Their typical form of communication is by sending notices through the mail.
If you receive a call pretending to be someone from the IRS, do not give out any of your information and make sure to report the call to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General For Tax Administration (TIGTA).
Tech support scams
Tech support scam calls are when you receive a call from a “known” company saying they’ve found a problem with your computer. They’ll persuade you to provide them with remote access to your computer and pretend to run a diagnostic test. After you’ve followed their instructions, they make you pay for a computer problem they “fixed” that never existed.
If you receive a call similar to the one explained above, hang up, report the call to the FTC and to the company they were impersonating.
How to Block Scam Calls
One way you can avoid scam calls is by not answering any calls that are unsolicited and from unknown callers. Since scam calls can be spoofed to look legitimate, it’s always best to avoid any calls you aren’t expecting that seem to be coming from companies.
While there is no way to block all scam calls, there are measures you can take to block from receiving most of them. Here are a few.
See if your phone service provider offers call-blocking services
Some phone service providers like AT&T and T-Mobile offer call services to block most spam calls. While these services won’t stop you from receiving spam calls altogether, they do act as an extra layer of security to avoid scams and can be a great addition to your phone plan.
Get a spam-filtering app
If your phone service provider does not offer a call-blocking service, the next best thing would be a spam-filtering app. Apps like Truecaller, Roboshield and Hiya are designed to block spam callers based on a database of spam calls that have been reported. Some of these apps update their database faster than others, so we recommend doing your research before deciding which spam-filtering app to download. Just like call blocking services from phone service providers, spam-filtering apps won’t stop spam or scam calls altogether.
Sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry
While the National Do Not Call Registry was created to stop telemarketing calls from legitimate companies who follow the law, being on the registry could reduce the number of unwanted calls you get. Being on the registry can also make it easier for you to spot scam calls since you’ll know it’s not a telemarketer.
You can sign up for the registry by going to donotcall.gov.
The Importance of Staying Safe From Scam Calls
While the act of answering a scam call doesn’t mean your information is being stolen right when you answer, it’s crucial that you try to avoid these types of calls because they can get you to reveal sensitive information without you even knowing. If you give out your information, you risk your identity being stolen, your money being stolen and your online accounts becoming compromised. Always keep in mind that most companies will not call you requesting information or payments. If you do receive a scam call, make sure to report it to the appropriate authorities.