Robocall scams on the rise

Stay safe on the phone. Learn what to do when you get a suspicious call.

25 Mar 2019

Key takeaways

  • Do not engage if you get a suspicious call, and make sure your family knows to do the same.
  • Never give out personal or login information over the phone.
  • Never agree to send a money transfer or prepaid card to someone you don't know.

While many people are worried about online scams and data leaks, there is a potential source of scams sitting in your pocket or purse: your phone. Robocalls are a longtime tool of politicians and some legitimate businesses, but the technology's use is on the rise by scammers looking to separate you from your hard-earned money. Below, learn what to look out for in order to stay safe.

Robocall scams: a growing problem

If your phone rings and you don't personally know who is on the other side, you should always respond with caution. While many businesses, including your bank, may call you for a variety of reasons, not every call may be what it seems.

Criminal organizations around the world frequently dial targeted United States phone numbers hoping to reach their next financial scam victim. “Everyone should be concerned with robocall fraud today," says Ellen Segriff, Head of Privacy and Cyber Information Security at UBS. “Robocall scams are on the rise."

The Federal Trade Commission, which oversees the federal Do Not Call Registry, said there were 3.79 million complaints about robocalls in 2018, more than double the 1.73 million complaints logged in 2014.1

“If someone is asking for personal information, hang up," she explains. When your bank calls, they already have your account and personal contact information. There is no reason for a company you already work with to ask for account numbers, login IDs or passwords.

If there is any issue with your account at any business, you can always call the business directly on a published customer service number to guarantee you are speaking with someone you can trust. Segriff points out that you likely have finance-related phone numbers handy: “If you are in doubt, go back to your financial statements and use those phone numbers."

Tools and tips to stay safe

Some technology companies have introduced smart caller IDs that aim to identify spam callers, but there is no impenetrable method to deflect all robocall scammers. Still, there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself.

“Add yourself to the 'do not call' registry for telemarketers," Segriff suggests. “If you are on that list and still get a call, you know it's not legitimate." You should also be on the lookout for spoofing. “Caller ID spoofing is when someone changes their call ID to disguise where they are really calling from."

Because you can't fully trust your caller ID, the last line of defense is your own awareness of robocall scams. Do not engage if you get a suspicious call, and make sure your family knows to do the same. “If you think a call is coming from a scammer, hang up. That's the best thing you can do."

Stand up strong to robo scammers

Robocall scams can be surprisingly convincing, so you should always stay alert to avoid losing money. To the online criminals, it's a numbers game. Using robocall and automatic dialing technology, they can dial countless numbers hoping to connect you to a scammer on the other end of the phone.

Never give out personal or login information over the phone. Never agree to send a money transfer or prepaid card to someone you don't know. Always remember, legitimate companies do not ask for these types of payments.

According to Segriff, “If you don't recognize the caller ID, and if it doesn't sound right, it probably isn't right." Save yourself the time, money and frustration of fraudulent losses by standing up strong to phone-based scams.

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