The volume of scam activity out there is truly mind-blowing. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t receive a scam telephone call on my mobile phone or landline, or a scam email, or a scam text. Sometimes I get more than one in a day. In an effort to stop it, I’ve gotten on ‘No Call’ lists. They May slow it down a little but don’t completely work. I unsubscribe. Mark things as spam. Text ‘No’. Text ‘Stop.’
It never stops.
Give these numbers some consideration. After looking into facts and figures about this subject this week, I learned that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received more than 1.4 million fraud complaints in the first nine months of 2021 in which a contact method was identified. In about 2 in 5 cases, a telephone call was the scammer’s way to reach the victim.
A March 2021 survey showed Americans lost approximately $29.8 billion because of scams in the previous 12 months. The year before that it was “only” $19.7 billion a year earlier. Roughly 59 million Americans lost money to a phone scam during that time, according to the report, with the average loss jumping 43%, from $351 to $502.
If you’ve ever been scammed by one of these people, you might be embarrassed afterward. In fact, apparently, that embarrassment prevents a lot of people from reporting their experiences. Please don’t be embarrassed. These are professional crooks. Once they get you on the phone, these scammers have the advantage. They have a lot of knowledge, training and experience ripping people off. Yes, training. Many of these scamming operations train their scamming staff members about how to manipulate victims.
Scammers make false promises, phony threats, aggressive sales pitches, emotional manipulation, and psychological techniques to get your cooperation. They frequently know more about you than they reveal. They can use that information to steal your money, identity, additional information, or any combination of those things. Crooks disguise themselves as all types of people and workers.
I was scammed out of several hundred dollars last month while holiday shopping, and I’m still trying to get my money back. Three people I know personally have told me how they were scammed within the last six months. Each had a different amount of money stolen, by very different scams.
If it’s happened to you, you’re not alone.
Popular personas and scams in their arsenal are:
- government representatives
- customer service personnel
- utility companies
- big stores
- big-name enterprises (such as Amazon or Apple)
- mobile phone carriers (such as AT&T and Verizon)
- Cable companies (such as Comcast or Cablevision)
- Charitable organizations (such as those helping animals, military veterans, and police or firemen).
- Lottery scams.
- Family members under arrest.
- Insurance company scams.
- Vehicle warranty issues.
- Health insurance scams.
- Bogus Technical Support.
- Website password problems.
- COVID related scams
How do you know if something is legitimate?
Sometimes you simply will not be able to tell. Think twice before you answer any call or respond to an email or text If the source isn’t one you recognize. Never click embedded links in email or texts.
If somebody is threatening or pressuring you, that’s a huge warning sign. A legitimate business or organization will never do that. If somebody is rushing you, the same thing applies; a legitimate organization is not going to do that.
If you ask questions but don’t get answers, hang up. If you ask questions and get answers that don’t answer your questions, hang up. If the person on the line yells at you., hang up. Don’t worry about hurting somebody’s feelings. It’s not rude if you hang up to protect yourself. A legit Amit caller. Is going to understand, and a scam caller will not give you a second thought, they will just move on to the next potential victim.
Take action to protect yourself
You don’t have to wait to have a problem before you take action:
- Sign up for the FTC’s ‘Do not call’ list. It’s far from perfect, but every call they block, you don’t have to deal with.
- Download free caller ID
- Download spam blocking apps that help you identify incoming calls and texts with names, businesses, or spam indicators.
- Consider a low cost or free credit monitoring service
- Consider a low cost or free service to prevent identity theft
- Never ever give out any personal information to somebody you haven’t called yourself and verify they are who they say they are, and from where they say they are.
- Ask a trusted friend or family member for their opinion. If you’re wondering if something is a scam.
- Don’t let somebody make you feel foolish for asking questions.
- Don’t call back unknown numbers that ring your phone just once. Often, these are scams to get you to call hotlines in other countries that have 3-digit area codes the way the United States does.
- Don’t follow prompts in a pre-recorded message, such as “Press 3” to speak to a live operator.
- Don’t give anyone your personal or financial data, such as your Social Security number or credit card account number, to callers you don’t know. If a caller says they have it already and just needs you to confirm it, that’s not true.
- Don’t pay fees or fines or anything else you are alleged to owe by using gift cards or prepaid debit cards.
- Don’t pay shipping charges to get a free Item or prize you’ve supposedly won. They’re just trying to get your financial information.
- Don’t agree to meet a company representative. At a local parking lot or convenience store to give them payment of an overdue bill or charge. Legitimate companies don’t work that way.
Do remember that:
- Not everybody who contacts you is a scammer.
- Not all robocalls are fraud or scams.
- If you use a blocking app. You may need to manually enter legitimate call sources such as your –
* Religious organizations
* Healthcare providers
* School districts
* Insurance companies
If you are the victim of a scam or fraud, please don’t be embarrassed. It happens to good, intelligent people all the time. These scammers are good at what they do. It’s never right to blame the victim, no matter the crime.
If you are the victim of something, here’s the contact information for the FTC: 1-877-FTC-HELP.
This very short video from the FTC explains – https://youtu.be/3LvMO5UMCl8
There will always be people who try to take advantage of other people. That doesn’t mean you need to become cynical. It doesn’t mean you have to treat everybody else as if they are a criminal. It simply means you need to approach things like the smart and capable person you are.
Have you ever been the victim of a scam? If you’d like to share what happened to you, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You might be able to help other people prevent themselves from becoming a victim of the same scam.