When we started 800Notes.com we had no idea that telemarketing fraud comes in so many flavors. The variations include 'cramming', 'slamming', credit card scams, calls from telemarketers pretending to be IRS, sweepstakes and lotteries scams, advance fee loan scams, phone toner scams, fat finger dialing scams, and area code phone scams.
Typically the goal is to get you to reveal personal, bank account information, or to make you do something that will result in unwanted charges on your account. Individuals and businesses are equally affected by these scams although the schemes might be different.
In this article I will outline the 16 most popular phone scams. I am sure there are more, so if you have been a victim of a phone scam, or you know of a phone scam not mentioned here, please share it with me and the readers in the comments.
Send this article to your family members, co-workers, and employees. Give it to your teenage kids and elderly parents (studies show they are the most vulnerable to the scams). As the old saying goes, "Forewarned is Forearmed". 1. One of the ‘hottest’ scams
in the telemarketing industry these days involves companies that sell Auto-Warranties. It’s usually a robo-call. The recording starts with: “This is your final notice! The warranty on your car is about to expire…” Of course, the caller has no idea whether you even have a car, not to mention its warranty. After the recording is played you are connected to a live operator who often refuses to send anything in the mail until you make your first payment. The experienced salesman will use high-pressure tactics rushing you into making a payment.
Victims, who fell for the scam and “extended their warranties” report that the companies often fail to send any paperwork and routinely deny policy payments.
Tracing the calls to the companies is difficult. The calls often come from telemarketing centers located overseas. Also, the companies often spoof their caller ID information to display someone’s else’s real number. When people receive these calls they dial the number they see on Caller ID and leave angry messages for an unsuspecting victim. Two-three days later the telemarketers change the Caller ID number and the scam continues.
2. Another phone scam involves calls from “Prize Distribution Centers
” that claim that you are the winner in sweepstakes or a lottery. Of course, you are not the only “winner” in the lottery and tens of thousands of people received the same call. The goal of the scheme is to entice you to make a relatively small payment (for example, shipping and handling fee, a sales tax) promising that a much bigger prize will be sent your way. Once the payment is sent, you will most likely not hear from the company again, and a promised “Lincoln Navigator” will not find its way to your driveway. 3. Offers to Lower Your Interest Rates:
The calls begin with a recording that makes a tempting offer to lower your credit-card interest rates. Then you are switched to a live agent who collects from you the credit card number and its expiration, name, address, and in some cases even your social security number. The telemarketers have no intention of giving consumers better interest rates on their cards and instead use the information to commit identity theft and run up unwanted charges.
Again, tracing these scam artists is difficult: they spoof the caller ID information and use numerous VOIP accounts set up using stolen credit cards. The best thing to do is hang up, report the call to FTC and warn others through 800notes.com. 4. Fake Bank Alert Messages:
A fake message from a local bank says that your card is being suspended and that you need to call this toll free number to activate it. Of course, the toll free number does not belong to the bank and when you call they ask to verify your account information, which includes your name, date of birth, SSN, address, credit card number, etc. Once they have your personal information, they can use it to commit identity theft charging your existing credit cards, opening new credit card, checking, or savings accounts, writing fraudulent checks, or taking out loans in your name. 5. Advanced Fee Loan Scams:
In this scenario a telemarketer promises a consumer a loan or a credit card on very attractive terms. All the consumer has to do is just send a processing fee, or provide checking account info, and the offer was guaranteed. To make the offer sound even more attractive the scammers might throw in a free laptop, an iPod, or any other 'hot item'. After the payment is made the company disappears, and the victim is often left with an empty checking account and NSF (Non-sufficient funds) bank fees. 6. Fat Finger Dialing Scam:
A simple mistake in dialing - or writing down - a phone number can be costly. The type of con it plays into is called a "fat finger dialing" scam. Consumers make a mistake dialing a number and end up connected to someone who leads them down a rip-off path. Almost any frequently called number is likely to be a target for the "fat finger" approach. Take the national number for the Do Not Call list run by the Federal Trade Commission. The correct number is (888) 382-1222. But if you are off by just one digit, you can end up calling a number that tells you the number has been changed. The number it directs you to call will charge you $5.49 plus an "administrative recovery fee," for "a new national directory assistance service." 7. Free Listing at Yellow Pages:
This scam targets businesses. The caller says that he is from Yellow Pages and is calling to update their records. He proceeds by asking to confirm some basic information such as owner’s name, business phone number, address, and company name. Then they start billing the victim and only then the business owner realizes that it’s not a free listing and it was not Yellow Pages directory that called.
The victims report that when they call to complain, the company plays the recorded conversation with the victim saying 'Yes' except that the caller is reading from a completely different script. The scammers replace one side of the conversation, making it sound as if the business owner agreed to a paid listing and a monthly fee. 8. Bogus Fund-Raising Operations:
800Notes.com users report getting calls from scam artists posing as a charity and asking for donations. However, the charity is either non-existent or unaware of the solicitation.
When it comes to donations, it’s best to never make donations over the phone and donate directly to the beneficiary not the solicitor. This way 100% of your money will go to the charity not 10-15% as it often happens when donations are made through a telemarketer or even 0% if the money goes to a bogus charity. 9. International Phone Calls Scam:
It's not always easy to tell if you're dialing an international telephone number. In most cases, you have to dial 011 to begin a call to a foreign country. However, there are locations outside the U.S. where telephone numbers may look like domestic long-distance calls, but are actually international calls and international rates will apply.
For example, 284 (British Virgin Islands), 242(Bahamas), 246(Barbados), 268(Antigua/Barbuda), 345(Cayman Islands), 664(Montserrat), 670 (U.S. commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), 758(St. Lucia), 787(Puerto Rico), 767(Dominica), 809(Dominican Republic), 869(St. Kitts & Nevis), 868(Trinidad & Tobago), and 876(Jamaica) are all area codes in the Caribbean.
The scheme: the scammer often leaves a message typically asking consumers to call what appears to be an ordinary long-distance telephone number to confirm a lottery prize, or to get information about a relative who has been injured in an accident. In each case, you are told to call the number right away. Since there are so many new area codes these days, people unknowingly return the calls. Once the number is dialed, the scam artist will try to keep you on the phone as long as possible to increase the charges. Unfortunately, when you get your phone bill, you might find that you’ve been charged $2500 per minute.
If you are asked to call unknown number, google the area code to check if it’s local. Also, ask your cell phone and land line companies to put a block on international calls. This way you will hear an error message when you try to call an international number. 10. Phone Toner Scam:
The scam artist poses as a warehouse representative or vendor and makes contact with a targeted company. He will say "This is (first name), I need the model number off your copier". If the person who answers gives this info, the scammers will try to set up a shipment of toner. Of course, the deal is so good that the offer is based on a limited supply or limited time, pressuring the employee to act fast and get their money's worth. Upon delivery, both the employee and the company are usually in for a big surprise. The price of the invoiced toner is 2-3 times higher than expected, and the scam artist threatens with legal fines if the company fails to pay. 11. "Cramming":
When monthly charges pop up on your telephone bill for optional services that you never authorized such as voice mail, paging, or club membership, it's called "cramming." You may be asked to return a missed call because it’s 'Your lucky day' and you’ve won a trip to Las Vegas. When the call is made, an automated system is activated and you are unknowingly enrolled in a club or program, and the charge is placed on your phone bill. The crammer might not even need to do anything except simply pick your phone number out of the blue and place charges on your bill through your local telephone company, claiming that you agreed to purchase some services.
Look at your bill closely every month. Charges for optional services should be itemized and show the name of the company providing them and its phone number. If you did not authorize the services, call that number and insist that they be canceled and the charges removed from your bill.
Also, consider putting a third party block on your phone service. It's often free and it does not let any third party add charges to your phone bill. 12. "Slamming":
Slamming occurs when customers have their telephone service switched to a new carrier without their permission. You may receive a call from a telemarketer asking you to switch your long distance provider. Although you say you are not interested in switching, your long distance provider is changed anyway. 13. Caller ID Spoofing:
Generally, the scam works like this - you receive a call where total strangers pretend to be someone else and they back up their claims with spoofed Caller ID. The scam artists might then ask for money, demand a payment, request your personal information, addresses, or banking info. People report getting calls from 'Secretary of State', grandchildren, law firms, IRS, and government officials.
* For example, in one scheme the caller identified himself as a court official and informed the victim that she is being prosecuted for failing to show up for Jury Duty. When the victim replies that this is the first time she hears that she was summoned for jury duty, the caller suggests that this may be a clerical error in the court system, and he asks for her full legal name, date of birth, and Social Security number to check the official summons files. The scam artist informs the victim that this data will be kept confidential, but it is required for cancellation of the outstanding arrest warrant.
* In another variation of this scam 'government officials' call to offer a 'Government Grant': 'Because you pay your income taxes on time, you have been awarded a $12,500 government grant! To get your free grant, simply give us your checking account information, and we will deposit the grant into your bank account!' You may receive a message like this, where the caller claims to be from a government agency or some other organization with an official sounding name. The caller might claim that you will qualify to receive a "free grant" to pay for education costs, home repairs, home business expenses, or bills. In any case, the claim is the same: your application for a grant is guaranteed to be accepted, and you'll never have to pay the money back.
* Scam IRS calls: In this scheme people receive phone calls from a caller who impersonates an IRS employee. The caller asks the taxpayer for their Social Security and bank account numbers, claiming that the IRS needs the information to complete the processing of the taxayer's payment. In another variation of the scheme, 'an IRS employee' states that the check issued by IRS has not been cashed, and the IRS is calling to verify the individual’s bank account number.
Hang up, find the official number of the organization and call to report the incident. Also, don't send money - cash, check or money order - by courier, overnight delivery or wire to anyone who insists on immediate payment. 14. Call Forwarding Scam:
You may receive a call or message where the caller, requests you to dial a 2-digit code preceded or followed by the * or # key (such as *79 or 72#), and then another phone number to claim some prize. This procedure programs your telephone to forward your calls to another number, possibly a toll or long distance number. Scammers can then call your number, be forwarded to the number you dialed and place calls that are billed to your home telephone number. 15. Telemarketing Travel Fraud:
These scams have many variations and often involve travel packages that sound legitimate. You get a phone call and the caller is saying that you have been selected to receive a free trip. Skilled salespeople will tell you, to be eligible for the free trip, you must join their travel club. Later, you may find another fee is required to make your reservation. In the end, you may never get your "free" trip because your reservations are never confirmed or you must pay different fees, or comply with hard-to-meet or expensive conditions.
Check out the company with your state, provincial and local consumer protection office before you buy any product or service. Also, be wary of "great deals" and free offers. Few legitimate businesses can afford to give away products and services of real value or substantially undercut other companies' prices. 16. Get Rich Quick Schemes:
Scam artists lure both would-be entrepreneurs and people looking for home-based work with false promises of big earnings for little effort. The schemes often require an initial investment and involve selling items on Ebay or making sales calls. However, once the payment is sent the companies often disappear.
The truth is everyone is susceptible to phone scams. Scam artists will devise a highly believable story to solicit information from their victims. That's why it is important to never give out any personal information over the phone if you are not the one who initiated the call even if that person claims to be a law enforcement official or someone from your financial institution. If you are returning a missed call, research the caller first. Also, always check 800notes.com to read other people's experiences with the caller. If you stay alert, you can certainly reduce your risk of falling victim to phone scams.