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Identifying and Avoiding Common Phone Scams

The telephone is an easy and reliable way for scammers to have direct access to their victims. By using auto dialers, criminals can reach millions of people through robocalls for very little money. Even caller ID can be tricked into displaying a more familiar telephone number. Increasing the chances that you’ll answer and open yourself to a scam. The following gives some do’s and don’ts to keep yourself safe from these telephone scammers. As well as some warning signs that a call is not legitimate.

Warning Signs

Calls offering something that sound too good to be true, probably are just that. Too good to be true. Don’t trust any calls offering low risk, high return investments, cash prizes, preapproved loans, free products, cheap travel packages, debt reduction or medical devices.

Any automated, unsolicited sales calls are not only probably a scam, but also illegal. Not all automated calls are illegal. Some are permitted for non-commercial or informational purpose (example: nonprofit groups or political campaigns).

A public utility, government agency or major business will rarely make unsolicited calls. These companies will contact you in different ways first, unless you have previously reached out to them. Also, be wary of unsolicited charity fundraisers. This is especially true after a natural disaster, when criminals see opportunity.


Do add your phone number to the Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry. This will make spam calls easier to identify, since most bona fide telemarketers won’t call phone numbers on the registry.

Do ask telemarketers questions about the call. Scam callers will pressure you for an answer. Whereas legitimate businesses and charities are willing to answer questions readily and give you time to consider what they are offering. Do use technology to weed out spam and scams. There is a plethora of call-blocking mobile apps. Also ask your phone carrier if they provide any call blocking tools.

Do research any offers or opportunities offered to you over the telephone.

Do immediately hang up on an illegal robocall. You owe the scammer nothing.


Don’t use wire transfers, prepaid debit or gift cards for payments. Scammers prefer this as they’re harder to trace.

Don’t confirm any information that a caller may say that they have. This is usually a trick to obtain sensitive information such as a social security number or credit card information.

Don’t answer calls that you don’t recognize. If the message is important, the caller will leave a voicemail.

Don’t press any numbers a prerecorded message might instruct you to press. They may result in phishing for more information or even more robocalls.

Don’t give payment information for shipping or registration charges on “free” products or prizes. The scammers are just trying to get your payment information.

Don’t return one-ring, unsolicited calls from a number you don’t recognize. Certain scams have you call Caribbean countries with similar, three-digit area codes to incur pricey connection and per minute fees.

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