This is one the newest scams and we’ve all had it happen: You look at your phone and notice a missed call from a familiar-looking number that isn’t in your contacts. Scammers are purposely calling numbers, hanging up, and hoping your first instinct might be to call back and see who it was, but that’s the last thing you should do.
If it was an 800 number, you probably wouldn’t think twice about not calling it back, but when it looks like a local number you might assume calling back is safe. Is it your doctor? Your kid’s principal? A neighbor? Unfortunately, the answer is probably none of those. Scammers are adept at spoofing phone numbers for caller ID purposes. So just because a number shares your area code doesn’t mean the caller is from your town. Crooks purposely use familiar area codes to gain your trust.
When you call back you are verifying the number is attached to a real person and are willing to make the effort in calling back an unknown number. This puts you at risk for scammers to call you at a different time and try to scam you with another ploy like convince you to give out personal information or credit card or social security numbers. Even if you don’t give out personal information, that call still could cost you major money. The numbers are sometimes hooked up with 900 numbers such as sex lines that charge by the minute… and it adds up fast.
In general, you’re better off ignoring an unknown number and forgetting about it. Any important news will be left in your voicemail. Be careful even if the person does leave a message. They can pose as an IRS employee*, bank employee, credit card company or a grandchild and can leave a convincing or even threatening voicemail. So, if your bank leaves a voicemail, don’t just call back the number from the missed call or that they provide in the voicemail, find the official number online and dial that.
This is only one of the 10 most popular phone call scams that could steal your money or identity: Can You Hear Me, IRS Impersonators, Bank Calls, Virtual Kidnappers, Tech Support, Grandparent Scam and Lucky Winner.
RULES TO REMEMBER
- The IRS will never call you. They will use mail with their official letterhead.
- If someone calls saying they are with Microsoft, Apple or any other tech company asking if you are having computer problems, hang up.
- If a relative (grandchild) calls saying they are in trouble and need money, verify with another relative first.
- If someone calls with a prize or amazing vacation you won, and it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Only give out information IF YOU initiated the call to a verified phone number.
Never trust—always verify.