How Can You Tell If a Scam Number Is Calling You?
Phone scams are at an all-time high. Unwanted phone calls – including scams and robocallers – are the top consumer complaint reported to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [*].
According to the latest statistics [*]:
Scammers made 6.7 billion calls in the first three months of 2023 alone – or nearly 74 million calls per day.
Scammers use automated calls from spoofed area codes or foreign countries to lure victims into scams. So, how can you tell whether you’re being targeted by a fraudster or receiving a legitimate call?
In this guide, we’ll cover the most common scammer phone numbers and area codes being used in 2023 — and show you how you can finally block unwanted spam and scam calls for good.
What Area Codes Should You Not Answer?
Most phone carriers provide automatic phone spam protection to their customers. However, scammers have figured out ways to stay one step ahead by tricking networks and consumers into thinking that a spam call is coming from a local area code, or by using foreign country codes that look like legitimate U.S. phone numbers.
They may use these numbers to deliver fake notifications, issue fraudulent robocalls, and spoof text messages from your bank. In some cases, your caller ID may show the name of a legitimate organization even though the call is actually coming from a scam phone number.
Here are some of the most common country codes that scammers use to call Americans:
Keep in mind that scammers can also spoof phone numbers from domestic U.S. area codes.
Some of the area codes most often associated with scam phone calls include:
- 216: Cleveland, Ohio
- 469: Dallas, Texas
- 657: La Palma, California
- 332, 347, 646: New York City, New York
- 218: Northern Minnesota
- 712: Western Iowa
How do you know if a local caller is a scammer? Unfortunately, scammers can spoof their phone numbers to look like they’re coming from local businesses (such as your doctor’s office or child’s school).
Rather than answer these calls and put yourself at risk, try Aura’s artificial intelligence (AI)-powered Call Assistant. Aura answers and screens unknown callers on your behalf, ensuring that only legitimate calls get through to you. Learn more, and try Aura’s AI-powered spam call blocker for yourself.
What Are the Most Common Numbers Used by Scammers?
Scammers can use technology to spoof known phone numbers and create brand new ones that look similar to those used by reputable companies like Amazon or Microsoft. These numbers help create a sense of credibility when scammers conduct tech support scams and financial fraud.
In fact, the majority of phone and SMS scams in 2022 came from only 12 phone numbers:
- (865) 630-4266: Scammers use this number to tell victims that their Wells Fargo accounts have been locked. They instruct victims to contact a spoofed version of Wells Fargo through a malicious link.
- (469) 709-7630: This number is associated with a package delivery scam. Fraudsters tell victims that they or someone they know has a package waiting for them. Often, the callers mention victims by name, tricking them into believing the number is associated with a real delivery company.
- (805) 637-7243: This phone number is associated with a few different scams, including Publisher’s Clearing House scams and fraudulent security alerts from Visa. Some of these scams target Chinese and Spanish speakers in their native language.
- (858) 605-9622: Scammers send scam SMS messages from this phone number, telling victims that their bank accounts or credit cards have been hacked. It urges customers of PNC, Chase, and Wells Fargo to contact a spoofed support number.
- (863) 532-7969: This number sends out generic SMS messages that read, “Your debit card has been frozen,” and points users to a spoofed support line. It doesn’t mention any specific bank, relying on the fact that almost everyone has a debit card.
- (904) 495-2559: Scammers use this phone number to send out fraudulent sweepstakes messages. They typically congratulate the victim for winning a raffle or other prize, then provide instructions on how to claim it.
- (312) 339-1227: This phone number is associated with multiple scams. Most of these scams either advertise weight loss supplements or notify victims that they supposedly have packages awaiting delivery.
- (917) 540-7996: This spam phone number is unusual. It appears to be an automated robocaller used for viral marketing campaigns. People have even reported receiving calls from the fictional Ghostface character from the Scream movie franchise.
- (347) 437-1689: Both tax scams and sweepstakes scams have been reported for this number. The tax scams typically focus on small dollar amounts, and the sweepstakes scams involve a free Dyson vacuum cleaner.
- (301) 307-4601: This phone number is associated with delivery messages that claim to be from the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). They include a link that leads to a spoofed USPS website.
- (878) 877-1402: This phone number sends out text messages warning debit card holders that their cards are frozen. These messages try to add credibility by referencing the victim’s phone number, but it’s a simple trick. If you’re getting this message in the first place, it means scammers already know your phone number.
- (202) 221-7923: Fraudsters use this phone number to run student loan scams. There are reports of someone named “Kelsey” who tries to profit from confusion about student loan forgiveness initiatives.
How To Tell If a Number Is From a Scammer
Most cell phone providers help you identify known scam numbers by displaying a “Scam likely”, “Potential Spam”, or "Spam Risk" message on your Caller ID. However, scammers can easily change their phone numbers and continuously register new ones to make their calls seem legitimate.
Luckily, there are tools you can use and steps you can take to block unwanted calls from scammers. Here’s how to protect yourself and your family from the endless stream of common phone scams:
1. Screen incoming calls with an AI-powered Call Assistant
Phone scammers don’t buy new phones every time they change their numbers. Instead, they use Voice Over the Internet (VoIP) technology to spoof different numbers. This makes it nearly impossible to identify a new scam number.
Aura’s Call Assistant uses artificial intelligence to identify scam callers and block them before they reach you. If you receive a call from an unknown number that Aura can’t identify, it will answer on your behalf and screen the call for common scam language — ensuring that only legitimate calls get through.
Aura can even scan your incoming texts to block known scam texts and warn you of dangerous phishing links.
2. Block or silence unknown callers on your smartphone
Android and iOS phones allow you to block individual phone numbers that you know are coming from scammers. Both also include call-blocking features that automatically silence incoming calls from people you don’t know or suspicious phone numbers.
Here’s how to silence unknown callers on your iOS or Android phone:
On iOS devices:
- Go to Settings, and then Phone.
- Scroll down, and tap on Silence Unknown Callers.
On Android devices:
- Open the Phone app.
- Tap on the three dots in the upper-right corner, and tap on Settings.
- Tap on Caller ID & Spam in the Assistive section.
- Switch on Filter spam calls to start blocking all potential spam calls automatically.
Note: Be aware that Google's spam filtering can be oversensitive. You may need to adjust this setting if you start missing legitimate communications from trusted numbers. Another option is to turn off spam filtering and instead enable See Caller and Spam ID to manually screen calls as they come in.
3. Ask your carrier about spam-blocking tools
Most phone service providers have tools to help prevent known scam callers from contacting their customers — but they don’t always automatically provide the highest level of security.
Here are some of the more popular spam-blocking apps that you can use, depending on your carrier:
- AT&T ActiveArmor helps block spam calls and can also notify you if your data was leaked in a data breach. A free version of ActiveArmor is included on every phone plan, or you can upgrade to the premium version for $3.99/month [*].
- Verizon Call Filter is a free app that provides spam detection, a neighborhood filter, and the option to set allowable numbers. If you upgrade to the Call Filter Plus app for $3.99/month, you also get access to spam number lookups, a personal block list, a spam risk meter, and more [*].
- T-Mobile ScamShield helps block known spam numbers before you ever see the call come through. You also get a free caller ID and a second PROXY number in case you don’t want to share your private phone number. The basic app is free, or you can pay $4/month to get Scam Shield Premium — which offers additional features like texted voicemails, reverse number lookups, and categorized spam blocking [*].
- For landlines: Some phone providers offer tools to help block spam calls. For example, AT&T customers can block individual numbers by calling *61 or *60 after an unwanted call. T-Mobile customers can turn on scam-blocking features by dialing #662#, and then press Call.
4. Look up phone numbers on Google and social media
If a persistent scammer is trying to reach you by phone, you can easily block their number on your mobile device. However, before you block the number, you may be able to learn more about the scam by searching for it online.
Try using Google’s advanced search commands to learn more about the phone numbers contacting you with scams.
For example, a search for: site:reddit.com “[phone number] + scam” will return every instance of that phone number and the word “scam” on any page on Reddit. You can do the same thing for major social media websites like Facebook, as well.
What About the Do Not Call Registry?
The National Do Not Call Registry is designed to protect consumers from aggressive telemarketers based in the United States. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) may fine companies that breach the call registry’s rules for noncompliance.
You can add your number to the registry, but keep in mind that the FTC has no jurisdiction in foreign countries. If a scammer calls you from outside the United States, there is nothing the FTC can do about it.
Only the FBI can carry out law enforcement operations overseas. You can report fraud to the FBI by phone or online, but it does not generally respond to individual complaints. In recent years, the FBI has raided scam call centers in Nigeria, India, and many other countries with international coordination and support [*].
Adding your number to the Do Not Call Registry may help protect you from U.S.-based telemarketers, but you still have to protect yourself from foreign scammers. A reputable spam blocking tool will help keep your phone safe.
The Bottom Line: Don’t Answer Scammer Phone Numbers
Phone scammers are using increasingly sophisticated tools to automate their scam campaigns and catch victims at their most vulnerable moments. You can’t expect to completely avoid every phone scam on your own, but you can protect yourself by identifying and reporting scam phone calls when they happen.
If you think you accidentally answered a scam phone call, use these tips to keep yourself safe:
- Wait until the other person speaks — and no matter what they say, don’t respond with “yes.”
- Don’t let potential scammers scare you by creating a sense of urgency or pressuring you to act quickly.
- Verify that the phone number belongs to the organization the caller claims to represent.
- Avoid giving out any personal information — especially passwords, Social Security numbers (SSNs), or financial details of any kind.
- Don’t call back foreign numbers that contact you – these are often one-ring phone scams.
- If you do accidentally give away any personal information, file an official identity theft report with the FTC at Reportfraud.ftc.gov.
- Hang up and block the number as soon as you are certain it’s a scam phone call.
Aura’s AI-powered Call Assistant can help you filter out phone scams by requiring that unknown callers explain themselves before getting connected to you.