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The number of phone scams is soaring – here’s how you can stop them in their tracks

With the rise of spam calls in America and the evolving nature of the calls themselves, it’s wise to practice vigilance to protect yourself.

Kids on smartphones playing games
Image: Unsplash

Phone scams are on the rise. In 2021, more Americans than ever were at the mercy of phone-related scams. By learning more about the tricks scammers use, you can protect yourself and those you love. Apply these tips to guard your phone and protect your information.

Phone Scams Are Evolving

A total of 59.4 million Americans lost money on phone scams in 2021, based on findings conducted by a Truecaller Spam and Scam Report. This number is 22% higher than 2020, during which 56 million Americans were scammed.

To put this in other terms, one out of three Americans has lost money because of a phone scam. Some 19% of these individuals report being scammed multiple times.

Just why are more Americans falling for phone scams? Scammers are getting smarter. In a study about scamming practices, First Orion determined that 75% of all scam victims were called by individuals who already had their personal information.

Before making the call, scammers choose to mine their victim’s details, investing more effort in their scams. This is a quality over quantity approach, but the investment proves worth it.

People often become victims for the following reasons:

  • They’re more likely to answer a call if the number looks familiar or if it has the home area code.
  • Scammers will engage in enterprise spoofing – making it seem like a known business is calling a person with a great deal or sale.
  • Individuals will stay on the line with a scammer if they use personal information, such as a home address or Social Security number, to make the call seem legitimate.

Another way in which phone scams are evolving is that they include text messaging. After all, people open 96% of all texts — so even if you never answer an unknown phone call, you could still be at risk.

These text messages may contain links promising gifts or prizes. Sometimes they come in the form of alerts issued by your bank account or even a delivery notice from UPS or Amazon.

If you don’t recognize the phone number, it’s best not to click on any texted links. If you have any questions about your bank account or packages, it’s always good to go directly to the source.

How to Protect Your Phone From Scam Callers

Spam calls on a smartphone
Image: Unsplash

An estimated $29.8 billion has been lost because of phone scams. The need to protect your phone is more crucial now than ever. Employ these tactics to guard your technology today.

Ignore the Call

When you’re uncertain about a phone call and don’t recognize the number, it’s more than okay to ignore it and let it go to voicemail. It’s a wise policy to practice with spam calls on the rise. If it’s a vital call, someone will leave a voicemail, and you can get back to them later.

Report Spam Calls

If you get a spam call, make sure you immediately block the number. You can do so by manually blocking the number in your phone settings. If the spammer leaves a voicemail, consider reporting it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can fill out a form about the nature of the spam call on their website. Reporting calls helps them to catch spammers.

Don’t Give Out Your Number

This point may seem obvious, but it’s unwise to give out your number any more than you have to. Try not to include your phone number on social media accounts or personal websites unless you feel it’s necessary. Scammers can quickly get ahold of this personal information and use it against you.

Stopping Spam Calls on iPhone

Take the first step in stopping scammers by silencing unknown calls in your iPhone settings. With the release of iOS 13, all iPhone users gained access to a fantastic feature that will quiet calls from numbers filtered as “unknown” so you won’t be disturbed during work, dinner, or family time. Go to Settings, then click on Phone and tap on Silence Unknown Callers.

If you want to get more aggressive against spam calls, you can download a spam blocking app on your phone as an additional preventive measure. Once you’ve installed the app, return to Settings and Phone. Click on Call Blocking & Identification. Tick on the apps you want to allow to filter and detect spam calls.

Stopping Spam Calls on Android

In general, Android phones work similarly to combat robocalls. In the Phone app, tap on the three dots and go to Settings. Depending on your phone, you’ll have several options from this point. One option might read “Block Harassing Calls,” another might be “Call Blocking” — choose a message that looks as similar to this as possible.

You can also choose to ignore unknown calls and block the number after they come in. Another option is to utilize spam blocking apps on your phone.

Guard Your Phone and Protect Your Information

With the rise of spam calls in America and the evolving nature of the calls themselves, it’s wise to practice vigilance to protect yourself. When in doubt, ignore the call, block the number, and report it to the FTC.

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Editor’s Note: April is a staff writer at ReHack Magazine with a passion for cybersecurity, AI, and all things tech. Offline, you’ll find her cruising the neighborhood on her motorcycle or bingeing the latest true crime documentary.

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Staff writer at ReHack Magazine with a passion for cybersecurity, AI, and all things tech. Offline, you'll find me cruising the neighborhood on my motorcycle or bingeing the latest true crime documentary.

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