The phone is one of a thief's most favorite tools. Pindrop Security says that in 2014, 86 million calls-per month-were deemed fraudulent: an attempt by crooks to get the recipient's personal information.
So handy is the phone as a criminal's tool, that the phone fraud rate is similar across industrialized nations. And it isn't just home residents who are targeted; victims include call centers, retailers and banks (namely credit card companies).
Thieves often use robo dialers, resulting in massive numbers of calls in only one hour. Common types of scams are: tech support, small credit loans and auto insurance.
The scammers seek information from their targets so that they can get into their bank accounts, receive payments for services that will never come, and collect enough data to commit identity theft.
- Phone fraud has increased by 30 percent since 2013.
- For every 900 calls that go into a credit card issuer, one is a scam.
- One out of every six calls to a consumer uses a robo dialer.
- 64 percent of scam calls come from a country other than the target's.
- Caller ID does not show the true number where the call comes from; thieves use spoofing technology to make it appear that the number is actually from, for instance, the IRS or Microsoft. Or, the spoofing technology will make the call appear that it's local in origin. Thus, many scam calls to U.S. households, for instance, come from overseas.
So what should consumers do?
- If when you answer the phone, you hear a recording, chances are extremely high-higher than a kite-that this is a call you do not need. Not all automated messages are fraudulent, but few are urgent. For instance, your medical provider may call you with automated messages reminding you of a flu shot or upcoming appointment. Auto dealers sometimes use automated messages to remind customers that their car needs routine servicing.
- Unless you always forget important appointments, you're safe to just hang up the second you hear the recording.
If your phone has a call block feature, block these calls (the legitimate but annoying ones will show their actual phone number in the caller ID).