Written by: Kevin Gardner
There is nothing quite as annoying as picking up the phone because you think it's an important call only to find a scammer on the other end of the line. Unfortunately, new technology and new tactics mean spam or scam phone calls are more prominent than ever. Luckily, there are ways you can combat one of the newest types of scams making their way around.
Understanding the Scam
Before you can combat the scam, which is known as neighbor spoofing, it helps to understand what it is. This type of scam occurs when a scammer programs their computerized dialer to display the same area code and prefix numbers that you have. This way, you think the number is coming from someone important, such as a local business or a neighbor whose number you don't have programmed into your phone. When you pick up the phone, you may hear a sales pitch or be asked to provide identifying information. Even if you hang up immediately, the damage is done because the scammer now knows there is a real person on the other end of the line and will continue to call you via different phone numbers.
How To Prevent the Scam
The biggest thing you can do to prevent any kind of phone scam is to avoid answering phone calls from numbers that aren't already programmed into your phone, even if you are expecting a call from someone whose number you don't have. If it is important, the person will leave a message and you can call them right back. Answering the wrong number can get you on a scammer's call list indefinitely.
Sometimes, the phone number appears to be a legitimate business. If you aren't expecting a call from a business and they ask you for identifying information or financial information, hang up the phone. You can then search for the company's phone number and call it directly to find out if the call was legitimate. This protects you from accidentally giving important information to scammers.
You can also block suspicious phone numbers. There are some apps that will block the numbers for you, and many newer smartphones have blocking features right in their contact features. If you know a number is a scam, look for it in your recent contacts and tap the information button (it typically looks like a letter "i" in a circle). If your phone allows you to block phone numbers from the contacts, you should see the feature on the next screen. You can also consult your phone's manual to be sure.
Finally, make sure that your phone number is on the National Do Not Call Registry. While it may not reduce the number of scam calls, it does reduce the number of legitimate telemarketing calls that people get. To add your phone number to the list, simply register your phone number for free.
Know That Your Number Can Be Spoofed
It is important to note that if your neighbors and local business phone numbers can be spoofed, yours can be as well. Most of the time, you'll never even know this is happening. However, sometimes someone who received a call from your number will call back to find out why you called them. If you don't know them, this is likely to lead to some confusion. Of course, now that you know what is happening, you can explain the situation to others who haven't heard of it and help them to be more diligent about their own information.
Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to completely stop spam phone calls. Scammers will keep finding new ways to spoof phone numbers and convince you to provide identifying information or financial information. Always be diligent. Even if it is a call you're expecting, it is a good idea to hang up and call them back. Remember, a reputable business will understand and be ready and waiting when you call. Trust your gut feeling to prevent big identity or financial stresses.