Are Scammers Calling You?
When a Texas woman answered her phone, she never expected to be threatened with criminal charges over an unpaid debt to the payment app Cashnet. But the caller (who claimed to be an attorney), had her full name, address, Social Security number (SSN), and bank account number — convincing her that it was a legitimate threat.
Immediately after complying with the caller’s demand for $1,000 to drop the charges, the victim contacted Cashnet directly. They explained that no such debt existed. It was all a scam [*].
Phone scams like this — also known as voice phishing or “vishing” — are far from uncommon. By some accounts, Americans receive an average of 31 scam calls every month, with victims losing $39.5 billion to phone fraudsters last year alone [*].
Identifying a scammer on the phone isn’t easy, and trying to make this determination can feel awkward and overwhelming. But there are telltale signs to keep in mind if you want to stay safe.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to detect the red flags of a vishing attack before things go too far.
Example: A Credit Card Scam Call That Almost Worked
During a scam call, fraudsters impersonate trusted or authoritative figures and attempt to trick victims into paying money or revealing sensitive information.
Unlike scam text messages or emails, there aren’t always simple warning signs you can look out for (such as suspicious links, poor spelling and grammar, or a fraudulent email address or phone number). Instead, phone scammers rely on your trusting or polite nature to get you to comply.
Here’s an example: According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), credit card fraud is a leading cause of identity theft [*]. And as it turns out, fraudsters often use phone calls for credit card scams.
Here’s an example of a credit card scam call that you might get or find in your voicemail inbox:
What key aspects of this message point to a scam?
Here are the main giveaways to look out for:
- The message is pre-recorded (this type of message is also known as a robocall).
- It offers a deal that’s too good to be true. Scammers call targets and surprise them with an urgent message, offer, or threat.
- It creates a sense of urgency by stating that “the offer is only available for three business days.”
- It tries to establish trust by claiming to be from the “underwriting department.”
- It attempts to hide the fact that it’s a scam by stating that “this is the only notice you’ll receive.”
- It doesn’t include any personal details about you.
Not all phone scams look the same. But with enough information, you’ll learn to notice when a call doesn’t sound right.