You know how it goes; an unsolicited number calls you about donations, national tragedies, or even phony IRS or debt collections — topics you may have never heard of or have any relation to. However, you don’t recall providing your phone number to an untrustworthy source, so why do you keep receiving these calls? This is because callers on the other side of the phone are looking for you to accept fraudulent charges.
It’s likely that you’re asked for your phone number more than you think. Whether you make purchases in stores, download apps, or sign up for new accounts, you’re expected to provide your phone number more times than not. It’s because of this that many of us have gotten into the habit of doing so freely. Although providing your phone number may serve as a convenience for you, and it can be safe to do, it becomes another source of personally identifying data. Often times, the databases your phone number is entered into are open to thieves and scammers.
Unfortunately, advances in technology have enabled scammers to access phone numbers more easily and they can make illegal calls from anywhere in the world. They’re also able to hide from law enforcement by displaying fake caller ID information.
Should I answer these calls?
According to CBS News, more than 29 billion computer system (robot) calls were made over the last year and that number is growing. It’s hard for law enforcement to address every single one of these calls because so many calls are happening so often. If you’ve ever received a phone call and the other end of the line is silent, it could be an automated computer system calling. The purpose of the silence is to test whether or not a human is on the other end of the call. When any type of sound is made, the computer system saves your phone number as a target for theft.
What to do when you receive a call that might be spam:
1. Don’t pick up: If you happen to receive a call from an unknown number, take precaution. It’s better to send the call to voicemail if you’re unsure. Voicemails can help you screen calls especially since most scammers won’t leave messages.
2. Never say ‘Yes’: Some computer system calls might ask questions like “Can you hear me?” or “Are you the homeowner?” to get you to say “yes”. Scammers could use this information later to authorize unwanted charges on bills, credit cards, and more.
3. Check for charges: If you’re afraid you may have provided a scammer with information that could endanger you, check your banking, credit card, phone and cable statements for unfamiliar charges. If you do catch something that you didn’t authorize, demand proof of the charge from the billing company. You can also contact the Federal Trade Commission or visit their website (www.ftc.gov) to dispute charges.
4. Register your number to the National Do Not Call Registry for free: Go to donotcall.gov, or call 1-888-382-1222. This will prevent most of these scammers from contacting you. There are also free apps available that do the same thing. They will flag potential spam calls for you and alert you when a fraudulent call is made before you pick up.