For many people, the new year means a fresh start; new people, places, and activities are all things that people look forward to experiencing in the year ahead. But not all the people we encounter in the new year will be as scrupulous as we hope. More than likely, we will receive a wealth of annoying scam phone calls over the course of the coming year, and unfortunately, some of us will inevitably fall victim to the nefarious intent of these calls. With spam/scam calls continuing to take more and more hard-earned money from vulnerable people, it is imperative to learn what to look out for and master the skills of handling scammers before they make you their next victim.
What to watch out for
- Calls coming from an unknown number (regardless of area code). Sadly, the days of feeling excited when an unfamiliar number pops up on our phone devices are gone. Nowadays the safest move to make is to ignore calls from an unknown number and let them go to voicemail.
- Isolation – a major risk factor for falling victim to phone scams. There are a variety of reasons that many seniors isolate themselves from the community, but regardless of the reason, isolation can lead to less awareness of current scams, and increases the likelihood of falling victim to a scam call.
- Calls which leave a voice mail message claiming to be a worker from a government agency. These agencies will never call and leave you a voicemail – rather they’ll contact you via traditional mail if they really need to get in touch.
- Calls in which the caller pretends to be a family member or loved one in distress. These calls can be uniquely difficult to deal with, as the scammer will imitate a loved one by using data available online. Should you answer a call and become concerned about a family member's wellbeing, make sure to reach out to other family members first and discuss the contents of the call before agreeing to any sort of deal with the imposter on the other line.
Steps to avoid scam calls and minimize risk
- Find a spam call blocking device – there are dozens of spam call blocking devices and software's available online or in stores like BestBuy and Walmart. Finding one that suits your price range and hardware should be easy, and after setting it up you should notice a major decrease in spam calls.
- Utilize the national do not call registry! Spam calls may not be completely stopped by registering on the national do not call list, but it will stop other predatory sales workers from reaching you which can be extremely important for staying unbothered.
- Stay in touch with relatives and friends! While this may seem silly, staying in touch will help prevent family member phone scams like the ones mentioned in bullet point number four above. In addition to this, family members and friends look forward to hearing from you!
What to do if you fall victim to a spam scam
- Contact the proper authorities – Reaching out to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to report scam calls is easy and helpful, not only to you, but to countless others who may fall victim to the scam you just overcame. In a situation where a scammer comes to your house in person, do not hesitate to call the local police.
- Reach out to trusted family and friends – Although it may seem embarrassing to admit you’ve been scammed, it shouldn’t be. The fact is scammers have become so advanced and insidious in their tactics to get money out of people that anyone could fall prey to a predatory scammer. It is important to let family and friends know what happened so they can help work together with you to avoid a situation like this in the future.
It is likely that most every American has put up with a massive increase in the number of spam calls and scam calls that they receive each year, and while methods for curbing this social epidemic are always being worked on, there is no surefire way to stop yourself from being contacted. Precautionary measures and knowledge are the best weapons in the fight against heartless scammers, and the scams listed above are only a few of the exhaustive number of scams a person may face in their life.