Are you getting those car warranty scam calls? So are we and it turns out that it’s just the canary in the coal mine. It’s estimated that nearly half of all cell phone calls next year will come from scammers according to First Orion, a company that provides phone carriers and their customers caller ID and call blocking technology. That’s a big a leap from 3.7 percent of total calls in 2017 to more than 29 percent this year, to a projected 45 percent by early 2019. Wow!
We decided to put together a very special episode about what these types of scams are and what you can do to protect yourself from them. Here’s the video:
A few highlights from the video:
- About 2.4 billion cell phone calls occur per month, most of them from robo-dialers from scammers
- More than half of all complaints received by the Federal Communications Commission are about unwanted calls
- The FCC received about 1.9 million complaints just the first 5 months of 2018 about these scam phone calls
- Call centers busted near Mumbai in 2016 for making $150,000 a day blackmailing Americans. Telephone scams are big business.
And here are some common cell phone scams and how to recognize them:
Phone scams involving the IRS
One of the most common phone scams involves someone calling you impersonating an employee of the IRS. They’ll say you owe them money and may threaten legal action or an arrest. Don’t fall for it!
The scammers will often use caller ID spoofing to make their number show up as “IRS,” but that’s not always the case. These are the top area codes where tax scams appear to originate:
202: Washington, D.C.
315: Upstate New York
631: Central and East Long Island, NY
314: St. Louis, Missouri
415: San Francisco
646: New York City
The IRS will not threaten you or demand payment over the phone. It initiates most contacts through regular mail.
Hiya, a smartphone app that protects users from phone spam and scam calls, reports that IRS and tax phone scams have gone up 1218% year over year from January and February 2017 to 2018.
Phone scams involving gift cards
Gift card scam are a relatively recent development, but here’s how they tend to work:
“Lots of people have told us they’ve been asked to pay with gift cards — by a caller claiming to be with the IRS, or tech support, or a so-called family member in need,” the Federal Trade Commission says on its website. “If you’ve gotten a call like this, you know that the caller will then demand the gift card numbers and PIN. And, poof, your money is gone.”
Another popular gift card scam involves crooks who pick up a gift card from a store, writes down the account number, scratches off the strip to reveal the security code and then leave the store — without the card.
To avoid becoming a victim of these scams, never pay someone you don’t know with a gift card and always check gift cards (if you’re buying them for a different reason) to make sure they haven’t been tampered with.
Phone scams involving auto warranties
Scammers posing as representatives of a car dealer, automaker or insurer have also been known to call vehicle owners telling them that their auto warranty or insurance is about to lapse. They will soon ask the potential victim to provide some personal info so that they can “renew” the policy. In actuality, they’re getting that info with the intent to commit fraud.
If someone like this calls you and asks for any personal information, especially a Social Security number, credit card information or driver’s license number, don’t give it to them — and certainly don’t give out your banking or credit card information to any caller unless you can verify you are dealing directly with a legitimate company.
Phone scams involving Medicare or health insurance
One phone scam that targets mostly seniors involves enrollment in health insurance related to the Affordable Care Act or Medicare. While some homeowners have reported having scammers show up at their door, most of these scams operate over the phone. The caller may claim to be a Medicare representative and ask you to sign up for a new card or policy. That’s when they ask you for your Social Security number or to pay a fee for help navigating the Obamacare website.
Phone scams involving fake customer support numbers online
Fake customer service numbers are showing up in search results and on social media platforms.
Krebs on Security reports that victims are calling the bogus phone numbers to cancel Amazon Prime — or for other reasons — and the scammers are asking for credit card and bank account information.
TheDailyScam.com has a of phony customer service numbers and new scams popping up all the time. A great place to check if you’re uncertain of a call.
Phone scams involving 2-factor authentication and your online accounts
As phone scams keep evolving, criminals are beginning to realize they can exploit two-factor authentication to take control of accounts in a way no one intended.
By effecting a simple phone takeover hack, the bad guys are proving that the added layers of phone-based security we’ve come to rely on aren’t solid as they seem.
That’s because the whole system hinges on who has control of the phone to which secondary security codes are sent.
The New York Times reports criminals are calling up major wireless carriers and asking them to port certain people’s phone numbers to a wireless device they control.
Once that port is done, the crooks can then get access to financial accounts that use two-factor authentication via text messages — one of the most popular methods of two-factor authentication.
Upon getting that two-factor authentication text message, a crook can then reset the password on any account you have tied to that number. Then they can easily drain your money! Just another reminder to check your accounts daily to make sure nothing is amiss.
The easiest line of defense you can put between you and scam calls
If you’re looking for a way to protect yourself from scam calls that threaten you and your financial security, look no further than the directory of apps listed on CTIA’s website. Free and paid ones are available for iOS Apple and Android devices. Here are the direct links:
Of course, nothing like this is 100% effective, so always be wary when you get a call from someone you don’t know and keep these common phone scams in mind.
Stay safe out there