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Should You Answer 888 Numbers? What You Need To Know

888 numbers are used by businesses to allow customers to contact them toll free. But scammers have also begun using them to mask their true identities.

888 numbers are used by businesses to allow customers to contact them toll free. But scammers have also begun using them to mask their true identities.

Illustration of the numbers 888 casting a shadow in the shape of a question mark

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      Can You Trust a “1-888” Phone Number?

      888 numbers are toll-free phone numbers issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Similar to 1-800 numbers, toll-free 888 numbers allow consumers to answer or call back businesses without the fear of being charged long-distance fees.

      This makes these numbers a popular option for call centers that receive a high volume of calls. However:

      Lately, telemarketers and scammers have begun using 888 numbers to entice people to answer their calls.

      Even though 888 numbers are commonly used by legitimate businesses, toll-free phone scams are on the rise — and the consequences of falling for one can be substantial.

      In this guide, we’ll explore what 888 numbers are used for, what can happen if you answer one, and how to protect yourself against scam callers.

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      What Are 888 Numbers Used For? Are They Always Scams?

      Businesses use 888 numbers so customers can reach them without needing to pay any long-distance call charges. Anyone in the United States, Canada, and other regions included in the North American Numbering Plan (NANP) can call 888 numbers for free [*].

      Other benefits of 888 numbers include SMS capabilities and the option to create vanity numbers — such as 1-888-NEW-CARS or 1-800-FLOWERS.

      888 numbers are most commonly used by:

      • Businesses and high-volume call centers. Especially in North America, businesses almost always have toll-free numbers that allow customers to contact customer support without incurring long-distance fees.
      • Robocallers. Some businesses use robocalls for recorded healthcare provider messages, appointment reminders, and other legitimate purposes. However, scammers also use them to run high-volume spam campaigns, one-ring scams, or to impersonate government agencies [*].
      • Scammers spoofing legitimate numbers. Fraudsters often spoof legitimate business numbers and caller IDs to trick people into answering. In one instance, a scammer using an 888 number and a spoofed “Bank of America” caller ID convinced a Florida woman to give up four digits of her Social Security number (SSN) — all under the guise of confirming her identity [*].

      Anyone can claim and purchase a toll-free number through “Responsible Organizations” authorized by the FCC [*]. Unfortunately, the ease of obtaining toll-free 888 numbers makes them a prime choice for scammers who want to use them for nefarious purposes. 

      While not all 888 numbers are scams, there is a higher likelihood that you’ll receive a scam, spam, or robocall if you answer an unsolicited 888 number.

      📚 Learn More: How To Quickly Identify a Scammer on the Phone

      What Can Happen If You Answer an 888 Number?

      Answering an unknown 888 number could put you in contact with a legitimate company — but it could also open you up to serious risks like identity theft, financial fraud, and hacking. 

      Some of the potential consequences of interacting with an 888 scam caller include:

      • You could become the victim of identity theft. Scammers often impersonate trusted authorities and attempt to get you to disclose sensitive information over the phone — such as your SSN, Medicare number, address, or financial details. If you give any of this personal information out, criminals could use it to steal your identity.
      • You could lose money to a phone scam. Fraudsters deploy many different tactics to try to steal your money. For example, they might pose as a legitimate company and claim that you owe them money or peddle fake products or services. Any money you send to a phone scammer is likely unrecoverable.
      • You could be harrassed by robocalls. Answering an 888 number lets scammers know your number is active, so they usually then start targeting you with even more phone scams and robocalls.
      • Scammers could gain access to your online accounts. If you’re tricked into logging in to a legitimate-looking but fake website while on a scam call, your information gets sent straight to the scammer. In other cases, fraudsters ask you to provide a one-time two-factor authentication (2FA) code to “verify” your identity — another clever trick they use to hack into your bank and other online accounts.
      • Fraudsters could clone your voice. Scammers only need three seconds of you speaking to clone your voice [*], which they can then use to contact your bank or target your friends and family with deepfake and AI voice scams.

      The bottom line: Phone carriers can’t keep up with scammers. Phone scams are on the rise, impacting nearly 300,000 victims last year alone. Scammers use 888 numbers to trick people into answering their calls and falling for their scams. Protect yourself from 888 and other scam calls with an AI-powered Call Assistant.

      How To Block 888 and Other Scam Phone Numbers

      1. Use an AI-powered spam call blocker
      2. Block spam numbers
      3. Silence unknown callers
      4. Download and use tools from your mobile phone provider
      5. Add your phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry

      Calls from unsolicited 888 numbers and other spam callers are not only annoying — they can also put you at risk of identity theft and scams.

      Here are some steps you can take right now to minimize these calls and protect yourself and your family from fraud:

      1. Use an AI-powered spam call blocker

      The danger of 888 numbers is that they are sometimes used for legitimate purposes — making it difficult to block all scammers and spammers before they reach out.

      An AI-powered Call Assistant acts as a personal assistant, answering calls on your behalf and screening callers to ensure that you only receive legitimate phone calls.

      For example, Aura’s Call Assistant checks incoming calls against constantly-updated spam lists to protect you from known scammers. It also filters out spam text messages to protect you from phishing links.

      🥇 Get award-winning spam and scam call protection. Aura combines AI-powered spam call and text blocking with award-winning identity theft protection, digital security tools, and a $1 million insurance policy. Try Aura free for 14 days and protect yourself from scammers.

      2. Block spam numbers

      If you receive a spam call from an 1-888 or other scam phone number, the first step is to block the number to prevent future content.

      However, scammers often use multiple numbers to target victims, so blocking specific numbers isn’t a catch-all remedy. But it can certainly help as a first line of defense.

      How to block individual spam numbers on iPhone:

      • Open the Phone app and navigate to the Recents tab.
      • Click on the More Info icon to the far right of the phone number you want to block.
      • Scroll to the bottom of the contact page, and tap on Block this Caller.

      How to block individual spam numbers on Android:

      • Open the Phone app, and navigate to the Recents tab.
      • Click on the avatar of the phone number you want to block.
      • Tap on the three dots in the upper right corner, and then click on Block numbers.
      • Toggle the Report as spam on the pop-up box that appears, and then click on Block to confirm.

      3. Silence unknown callers

      iPhone settings screen showing a toggle to silence unknown callers
      You can choose to silence any caller that isn’t in your contact list or recent calls on iPhone.

      One of the easiest ways to dodge spam and toll-free calls is by using your mobile device’s “Silence unknown callers” functionality. This will silence any calls from numbers that aren’t in your contacts list, including scam callers.

      How to silence unknown callers on iPhone:

      On iPhones, the caveat is that all unknown callers will be silenced, even if they’re legitimate. These calls will be redirected to your voicemail and appear in your recent calls list, but they won’t ring.

      Here’s what to do:

      • Open the Settings app, and then scroll down to Phone.
      • Scroll down, and click on Silence Unknown Callers.
      • Switch the toggle to the On position.

      How to silence suspected spam callers on Android:

      Rather than blocking all unknown numbers like iPhones do, Android’s spam filtering only blocks out suspected spam callers. However, it can still be oversensitive, potentially causing you to miss legitimate calls from companies not saved in your address book.

      Here’s what to do:

      • Open the Phone app.
      • Tap on the three dots in the upper right corner, and then tap on Settings.
      • Click on Caller ID & Spam under Assistive settings.
      • Switch the Filter spam calls toggle to the On position.

      📚 Related: How To Block Restricted Calls

      4. Download and use tools from your mobile phone provider

      Many of the major phone service providers provide built-in features that you can turn on to protect yourself against the increasing number of modern-day phone scams.

      Here are four digital security tools to consider:

      • AT&T Call Protect: The free plan comes with fraud call blocking, nuisance call alerts, call routing, and a handful of other useful features. If you upgrade to a paid plan for $3.99/month, you’ll get access to a virtual private network (VPN), Wi-Fi alerts, reverse number lookup, and more.
      • Verizon Call Filter: The free plan comes with a Call Filter service for postpaid customers with compatible phones. Paid plans start at $3.99 for one line and come with Call Filter Plus, which provides total spam and robocall control. If you have three or more lines, this plan costs $10.99/month.
      • T-Mobile Scam Shield: This is a free app for postpaid T-Mobile and Metro customers. It identifies spam calls and provides enhanced caller ID. The paid version, Scam Shield Premium, offers call-blocking, voicemail-to-text, and other advanced features. It costs $4/month.
      • UScellular Call Guardian: This service blocks high-risk calls and is free to USCellular customers on the Everyday and Even Better plans. The premium version is $3.99/month with a free 14-day trial. It includes additional features such as nuisance call blocking, detailed spam ID, and more.

      5. Add your phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry

      Adding your number to the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry is free and can help to reduce the number of spam and telemarketing calls you receive. 

      How to add your phone number to the DNC registry:

      • Go to DoNotCall.gov to add your phone number online.
      • Call 888-382-1222 from the phone number you wish to register.

      You can add your landline, business phone number, or cell phone number to the DNC registry. Registration never expires, so your number will remain on the list unless you ask to remove it [*]. But keep in mind that it can’t stop scammers from making illegal calls targeting you.

      💪 Aura combines AI-powered spam protection with award-winning digital security, and more. Protect yourself from the latest online threats — including hacking, scam calls, identity theft, fraud, and more. Try Aura free for 14 days.

      10 Scam Area Codes That You Should Block or Avoid Answering

      Fraudsters often use similar toll-free prefixes and area code numbers to trick wireless networks and unsuspecting consumers — and 888 is just one toll-free area code to watch out for. 

      Some of the other area codes and country codes you should be wary of include:

      U.S. area codes:

      • 216: Cleveland, Ohio
      • 218: Northern Minnesota
      • 332, 347, 646: New York City, New York
      • 657: La Palma, California
      • 712: Western Iowa

      International area codes:

      • 1-268: Barbuda and Antigua
      • 1-649: Caicos and Turks
      • 1-829: Dominican Republic
      • 1-868: Tobago and Trinidad
      • 1-876: Jamaica

      💡 Related: Scammer Phone Numbers: Beware of These Area Codes

      Did You Answer a Spam Call? Here’s What To Do

      While answering a spam call can make you a target for more spam — as scammers now know your number is active — simply answering isn’t dangerous in itself. However, if you say anything, you could be at risk of fraud, identity theft, or account hacking.

      If you gave up personal information, answered “yes,” or sent money or gift cards to a phone scammer, here are some steps you can take to protect yourself:

      • Secure your online accounts. Scammers often try to gain access to your online accounts (banking, email, etc.), where they can do serious damage. If you think you’ve disclosed personal details, passwords, or 2FA codes to a phone scammer, immediately update your passwords and enable 2FA on all of your vulnerable online accounts.
      • Freeze your credit. If you reveal your SSN to phone scammers, they may be able to open new loans and credit cards in your name. You can contact each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) to put a security freeze on your files and stop identity thieves in their tracks.
      • Report the fraud to the FTC and any impacted company. Filing a report with the Federal Trade Commission at IdentityTheft.gov is crucial if you need to prove you were a victim of identity theft — such as when disputing fraudulent accounts or charges. If you were contacted by a scammer impersonating a legitimate company, it’s a good idea to alert that company via an official contact method.
      • Monitor your credit and identity for signs of fraud. Keep an eye out for suspicious transactions in your bank statements, new accounts on your credit report, and unrecognized login notifications for your online accounts. 
      • Make your phone number less accessible to scammers. Removing your phone number from social media and data broker lists can help prevent scammers from getting hold of it in the first place. Aura’s data broker opt-out feature scans data broker sites and requests removal of your information on your behalf.
      • The nuclear option: change your phone number. If your phone number is on the Dark Web, there’s not much you can do to get it removed. And data brokers often relist phone numbers even after removal is requested. If you’re being bombarded with spam calls and nothing you’ve tried has decreased their frequency, consider changing your phone number for a fresh slate.

      If you find yourself being targeted by a seemingly never-ending stream of unwanted calls, consider an identity protection solution like Aura. Aura plans comed equipped with an AI-powered Call Assistant and data broker removal to help keep phone scammers at bay.

      Keep your phone number and identity private. Try Aura free for 14 days.

      Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you to increase awareness about digital safety. Aura’s services may not provide the exact features we write about, nor may cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat discussed in our articles. Please review our Terms during enrollment or setup for more information. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime.

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