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How to protect yourself from robocall scams

According to YouMail, a call blocking and call management services company, 58.5 billion robocalls were made in the U.S. alone in 2019. And it’s believed that up to 44 percent of those were made by scammers.

These prerecorded robocall messages can run the gamut from dangling expensive travel rewards to threatening legal action for nonexistent debts if you don’t call them back. What are they looking for exactly?

Why do you receive robocalls?

Personal information sells well on the dark web, and this includes social security numbers, credit card numbers, as well as supporting information like phone numbers and addresses. Basically, it’s everything a scammer needs to steal someone’s identity.

Phone calls are a quick way for scammers to get that valuable information from you. And robocalls are more sophisticated than ever.

Be wary of area codes

According to an AARP survey, 59 percent of respondents said they were more likely to answer the phone if the number calling them was local.

Scammers know that. Scam robocalls often use caller ID spoofing to mask their true location and make it appear that they’re in your area code. 

These monotone messages can claim to represent anyone – a government agency (the IRS and Social Security Administration are both popular), a name brand company, a utility company, a law office, and more. And they are increasingly becoming more sneaky.

If you answer, don’t press any keys  

A robocall message may ask you to press a key for more information or to get removed from the call list. What happens really?

Engaging with the call in any way generally means one of two things:

  1. You’re likely to get a live person on the phone who will pressure you into giving away some personal information or making a purchase.
  2. You signal your interest, which means you’ll get more of these calls in the future.

You always knew robocalls were annoying, but did you ever suspect they could be dangerous?

Some robocalls are legitimate

We should point out that some robocalls are legitimate and even important, such as dentist appointment reminders, political campaigning, nonprofit outreach, or an airline calling with updated flight information.

Watch out for suspicious messages

Be on the alert if a robocall isn’t one of the legal variations from above or if it comes from a person or organization you didn’t give permission to receive such calls from. And be especially suspicious if the message says:

  • To press a key to get off the call list
  • You won something and press a key to claim it
  • You will receive a free offer or unbelievable discount
  • You owe money and may face legal action

Protect yourself with these simple robocall rules

To better protect yourself and your personal information, follow the four robocall rules below:

  1. Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers.
  2. Don’t press any keys or say anything.
  3. Don’t follow instructions to speak to a live person.
  4. Don’t trust a robocall by caller ID alone.

The truth is that these calls will keep coming and the scams involved with them will continue to evolve. But that doesn’t mean we have to make it easy for these scammers to operate and prosper.

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