Been Targeted by a Phone Scammer? How to Report Nuisance or Scam Callers
As we've discussed in previous articles, there are a lot of different types of phone scams. There's everything from lottery and sweepstakes scams to the IRS scam and warrant threats to fake charities. Scam callers will often be very convincing and have information that will back up their claims.
Some phone scams are dead giveaways from the moment you answer, such as the IRS phone scam (the IRS will never call and demand that you pay them via money transfer or prepaid credit cards). Others, like a local call from someone claiming to be fundraising for a police or firefighter foundation or a work from home opportunity might seem legitimate.
No matter how believable a caller seems an unsolicited, cold call should never be trusted, even if caller ID says it's coming from a local business or government office.
If you do answer a call from an unknown number you should ask the caller for their information and once you have it you should hang up in order to verify the information they give you. You should use CallerSmart's reverse phone lookup to check and see if there is any suspicious behavior reported on the number they called from. You should also look up the name of the company or organization the caller claimed to be calling from and contact them directly to see if they are using telemarketers.
Most spammers and scammers won't be willing to give you their information, since they are after all breaking the law, this is also a dead giveaway that you've received a scam call.
Once you know you've been targeted by a spam or scam caller what should you do?
There are several steps that you can take to prevent it from happening again and to keep it from happening to others.
Step 1: Identify What Type of Spam or Scam Call You Received
If you were called by a telemarketer trying to get you to buy something, make sure that your number is on the national Do Not Call Registry. This should prevent legally abiding telemarketers from calling and if you do continue to receive these types of calls you should report them.
If it's a debt collector calling you, ask them for their information, including a mailing address. If you actually do owe something you can send a formal letter via snail mail to the debt collector that’s working on behalf of your creditor and ask them to stop. They legally can't call you once you do this.
If you believe it's a phony debt collector, you should still ask them for all of their information and on behalf of which creditor they are calling for. Once you get off the line verify the information with your creditor.
If someone calls claiming that they are an IRS agent, you should hang up immediately. This is a very common type of scam, it's important to remember that the IRS will never call you to demand payment.
If someone calls claiming to be from the local police station or other law enforcement agency and is threatening arrest because of missed jury duty, money owed on taxes, overdue parking tickets, issues with immigration status, etc. Do not believe them. These types of scams, along with the IRS scam, is to trigger a panic reaction in their chosen victim. It's best to refuse to give information and hang up.
Free giveaways whether they be vacations, lottery prize winnings, or medical alert systems are also a very common type of phone scam. As with any unsolicited call, don’t trust these people until you can verify that the information they are giving you is correct.
Other common phone scams to watch out for are tech support phone scams, romance scams, and loan and refinancing scams.
Phone scammers like to target the most vulnerable people, usually this means that they look for elderly people, college students with debt, and immigrants. There are a number of different scams going around at the moment and new scams are constantly popping up. The one thing that these calls all have in common is that they start as an unsolicited call, which should never be trusted even if the caller has personal information, such as your name.
Step 2: Report the Incident to the Proper Authorities
Once a phone scammer has called you what should you do? Just as there are many different types of scams there are several different places where you can report them.
Romance scams and tech support scams that initiated via the internet and resulted in a phone call should be reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Run by the FBI the IC3 is the best place to report any phone scams that involved the internet or started off via the internet.
Romance scams target both single women and men who are looking for love on the internet. Many times scammers will pretend to be someone who they aren’t in order to gain the trust and love of another. Once they've done this they will capitalize on that trusting relationship by asking for money. In addition to reporting a romance scammer to the IC3 you should also report them to Romancescams.org, a non-profit that helps identify romance scammers, and to the dating site that you met the scammer on.
All IRS scam calls should be reported to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).
All consumer related phone scams should be reported to the Federal Trade Commision’s Complaint Assistant. Consumer related scams include lottery and sweepstakes scams, free vacation or prize scams, energy bill scams, tech support scams, loan and refinancing scams, fraudulent debt collectors, fake charities, medical alert scams, pharmaceutical scams, and telemarketers that do not respect the Do Not Call list.
Some consumer related phone scams should also be reported to the Federal Communications Commission. Telemarketers and debt collectors who are using caller ID spoofing should be reported to the FCC. Additionally, any sign of cramming on your phone bill should be reported to the FCC. If you receive spam text messages in the form of a horoscope or daily joke you are probably paying for them on your monthly phone bill. Unless you explicitly signed up for these texts then you should report them to the FCC and notify your carrier.
Lastly, some phone scams should be reported directly to local authorities and your state's Attorney General. These scams include the grandparent's scam and warrant and arrest threats.
Step 3: Warn Others
After reporting a scam call with the proper authorities, be sure to warn others. Tell friends and family about what happened to you. Phone scams are incredibly common and come in such a variety that it can be easy to get pulled in by them. The more people you tell about the scam the less likely they will be to fall for it when they receive a call in the future.
Using a reverse phone lookup app allows you to leave your feedback on a number. You can warn the other people that receive calls from the same unknown number as you did that it is linked to a scammer. It's important to leave details like where the caller said they were calling from and if they had personal information, such as your name, address, etc. This feedback will help others identify scammers and prevent people from falling victim to these types of phone calls.
Step 4: Block the Number
The final step when you get a call from a confirmed scammer is to block the number. Although scammers have many numbers that they use, you can eliminate a lot of unwanted calls by blocking the number that initially called you.
It's very simple to block numbers on your iPhone. We've created step-by-step guides on how to block calls and block text messages on your iPhone.
By following these four steps when you get a call or message from an unknown number should help you identify when you're being targeted by a spammer or a scammer and how to decrease the number of those annoying calls.