Wouldn’t it be nice if every time the phone rang, you knew who was on the other line, and also that you could trust them? Although you can download apps on your phone to try to catch when the call is fraudulent, there is just no way of knowing. While some of those calls can be nothing more than sheer nuisance, others can be dangerous. As a consumer, it is essential that you know which calls to take more seriously than others. These are five of the most dangerous cell phone scams to be aware of!

The DHS OIG Hotline Scam

A recent report was just issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) about a new phone scam that is targeting people around the US. The caller pretends that they are an employee of the US Immigration office and scrambles the caller ID to make it appear that they are actually calling from the DHS OIL hotline number (800.323.8603). The scammer then intimidates the person they call into providing personal information by insisting that they have been a victim of identity theft. If you receive this call, beware! The DHS would never pick up a phone from the hotline to call you directly. Do not give them any information, hang up immediately, and make sure to report it to the authorities.

FBI Spoofing Cell Phone Scams

In this phone scam, the caller identifies themselves as someone from the FBI and says that the person they are calling is being investigated for specific federal violations. And, once more, if they don’t give their immediate personal information, then there will be someone at their door to arrest them. The caller ID seems legitimate because it is scrambled to read the FBI local office, which lends credibility to the call. And it also makes it more likely that you will give your information to avoid problems.

The “Can you Hear me?” Cell Phone Scams

The FCC has sent out a warning about scammers who are calling various people and getting them to say the word “yes” during the conversation so that they can record it. Once they have you on tape, they use voice recognition to gain access. So if you get someone on the phone who doesn’t identify themselves or identities themselves as someone suspicious, hang up immediately. If they ask if you can hear them, that is a huge red flag! Also, if they get your voice recorded, they can use that signature to authorize credit card charges that are fraudulent. To avoid this scam:

  • Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t know. If it is someone credible, you can always call them back.
  • When you do answer the phone, and it asks you to hit a button to continue the call, hang up!
  • If you receive a call, write down the number and file a complaint with the FTC or FCC
  • Ask your carrier if you can block robo-calling services. Or, use an app that helps to weed through discredited numbers

Smishing

The newest type of scam is something called smishing, which stands for SMS phishing. It is a texting scam that seems to be legitimate. A number, with a bank signature, texts you and claims that your debit or credit card has been used to make a large purchase. And then they ask if it was you who made it. If you didn’t make the purchase, they ask that you call a number back to report a fraudulent charge. When you call back, the scammer is on the other end of the phone and asks you for all of your banking information. So if you get a text message that appears to come from your credit card company asking you to call and verify, Google your bank’s number directly, and call them at their official number to report the issue.

Phishing Cell Phone Scams

A new turn on an old scam, criminals are calling pretending to be from Apple support. The caller warns you that your iCloud has been hacked into. And that to prevent any further damage, they need your login information and user ID to verify that they are talking to the right person. If you get a call from anyone representing a company who is asking for personal information; don’t give it to them. In ALL cases, hang up the phone and contact the institution directly that the person claims they are calling to represent. It is the only way to keep your information safe.

Phone crimes are on the increase. And as technology becomes easier to manipulate, scammers will continue to change the game to convince you to do things you normally wouldn’t. As a general rule, don’t answer the phone unless you know the number. And if someone leaves you a message with a return phone number, don’t use it. Always go straight to the source and call the institution directly on their 800 number to speak with a representative. And in the same respect, don’t answer any links…it will always get you into trouble. 

At Cross Link, we stay on top of scams and trends so we can keep you informed. Our mission is to keep our neighbors and CSRA businesses safe. Join us by taking an active role in the fight to protect our community. Here is a list of government offices to call, based on the type of scam you encounter: https://www.usa.gov/stop-scams-frauds. Or, if you prefer a video: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/media/video-0054-how-file-complaint