How do you protect yourself from these calls?
The first action you can take against phone scammers is to educate yourself and know the signs of a sure scam.
The second action you can take is to report these phone calls to the FTC on their website at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#&panel1-4 if you are in the US. If you are outside the US, you need to file a complaint with your countrie's federal trade agency.
The US also has a national Do Not Call registry where you can register all of your phone numbers (mobile and landline): https://www.donotcall.gov/
Any robo-calls that are UNSOLICITED are against the law and may be reported to the FTC even if your phone number is not on the registry. So if you're receiving robo-calls numerous times a day whether for security systems, credit card offers, Google services, debit reduction or any other form of robo-call, report them to the FTC at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/media/video-0028-what-do-if-you-get-robocall
Lottery Phone Scams:
These calls can come from anywhere in the world. These scammers cold-call claiming that you have won a lottery that you never entered. They may also "spoof" the phone number on your caller ID. The same rule that applies to fake lottery emails applies to lottery phone scams - YOU CAN'T WIN A LOTTERY YOU DON'T ENTER and lottery is stricly regulated by all countries offering these lotteries. Within the US - there are scam warnings directly on state websites warning of these scams! This is from my own state's lottery website:
- Beware of a prize notice for a contest or promotion you never entered. If you have not entered, you probably have not won. Know that legal lotteries don’t require payment of fees or surcharges to collect a prize. Legitimate lotteries do not require winners to pay anything up front to receive a prize.
- Reject telephone, mail or internet offers to buy a ticket for a chance into another state’s or country’s lottery. It is against the law to purchase foreign lottery tickets or lottery tickets sold outside of the state of origin. Scam artists use the names of both legitimate and fraudulent lotteries to steal from unsuspecting individuals.
- Never provide personal information, such as bank account numbers, credit card numbers or Social Security numbers over the phone. Beware of “urgent” solicitations that require an immediate response. It’s a common tactic used in scams that gives you little time to check out the offer. Legitimate lotteries do not guarantee that you win a prize and do not require people to join prize pools to play.
IRS/FBI Phone Scams:
These types of calls can be very frightening and the scammers use all means of intimidation and fear to convince their victims that they will go to jail unless they wire money right away. These scammers can "spoof" their phone number and make it appear on the caller ID as coming from a legitimate agency. These phone calls are not from ANY legitimate government agency! The IRS does not call you with a notice of taxes - you are notified by mail of tax debt and they will not demand money through any form of untraceable payment methods such as Western Union, MoneyGram or any prepaid cards! This is a warning directly from the IRS website:
It is important for taxpayers to know that the IRS:
- Never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone.
- Never insists that taxpayers use a specific payment method to pay tax obligations
- Never requests immediate payment over the telephone and will not take enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation. Taxpayers usually receive prior notification of IRS enforcement action involving IRS tax liens or levies.
Potential phone scam victims may be told that they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS or they are entitled to big refunds. When unsuccessful the first time, sometimes phone scammers call back trying a new strategy.
Other characteristics of these scams include:
- Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
- Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.
- Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
- Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
- Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
- After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:
- If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue, if there really is such an issue.
- If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to TIGTA at 1.800.366.4484.
- You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant (https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/); choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
Fake Immigration Phone Scams:
Scammers making phone calls posing as immigration agents and offices have been reported to FraudFYI. In these scams, the scammers tell the victim that they are in danger of losing their immigration status unless they immediately wire bogus fees. One victim even reported that the scammer wanted them to go to their nearest dollar store and buy pre-paid Paypal cards to pay these bogus fees. No legitimate immigration agency would contact you in this way! This is a warning directly on the US Citizenship and Immigration Service Agency website:
Do not fall victim to telephone scammers posing as USCIS personnel or other government officials. In most instances, scammers will:
- request personal information (Social Security number, Passport number, or A-number);
- identify false problems with your immigration record; and
- ask for payment to correct the records.
If a scammer calls you, say “No, thank you” and hang up. These phone calls are being made by immigration scammers attempting to take your money and your credit card information. USCIS will not call you to ask for any form of payment over the phone. Don’t give payment over the phone to anyone who claims to be a USCIS official.
If you have been a victim of this telephone scam, please report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Learn more about telephone scams and telephone scammers’ techniques by visiting Federal Trade Commission-Telemarketing-Scams http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0076-telemarketing-scams.
Fake Microsoft Security/Computer/Technical Support Phone Scams:
These may come in the form of a a cold-call to your phone -OR- you may get a pop-up when visiting a website that tells you to call a phone number because your computer is infected. THESE ARE SCAMMERS TRYING TO ACCESS YOUR COMPUTER! They will ask you to download software and/or turn on remote access to allow them into your computer to "fix" it. Some may even ask you for your credit card number over the phone and illegally charge your card for this fake service. What these scammers are doing is installing malware that can capture everything you do online, including your billing information, banking information and any other sensitive information on your computer. If you receive a phone call like this - hang up and immediately file a complaint with the FTC at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/! There is a warning about these scams on the Microsoft blog that details exactly what these scams are and what to do if you have been contacted:
If someone calls you from Microsoft technical support and offers to help you fix your computer, mobile phone, or tablet, this is a scam designed to install malicious software on your computer, steal your personal information, or both.
Do not trust unsolicited calls. Do not provide any personal information.
You can report this scam to the following authorities:
- In the United States, use the FTC Complaint Assistant form. https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1
- In Canada, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre can provide support. http://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/english/reportit_howtoreportfraud.html
- In the United Kingdom, you can report fraud as well as unsolicited calls. http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/
Whenever you receive a phone call or see a pop-up window on your PC and feel uncertain whether it is from someone at Microsoft, don’t take the risk. Reach out directly to one of our technical support experts dedicated to helping you at the Microsoft Answer Desk. Or you can simply call us at 1-800-426-9400 or one of our customer service phone numbers for people located around the world.
These are just SOME of the telephone scams we are aware of, but I'm sure there are tons more out there. FraudFYI does collect information on these scams, so feel free to use the contact form on the FraudFYI blog to report any information you may have about a telephone scam.