Tech Sense: Phone Phishing by John Bell
Updated: Nov 25, 2020
From last month, phishing is a means to try and fraudulently collect money or valuable information from a person using subterfuge. Phone phishing is when a telephone is the technology being used to conduct the scam. We all have telephones in our homes or pockets, but this technology is abused by scammers to the point that many of us no longer want to answer our phones. These scams increase significantly as the holiday season arrives.
Hang-up on Robo-callers
If you pick-up a call and it is a robot caller, just hang-up. If you listen for a minute and the caller is: offering to lower interest on your credit cards, claiming something is wrong with your computer, stating that you owe money to the IRS, asking you about back pain, or telling you that they are from Apple or Microsoft tech support these are all scams! Just hang-up. These callers are all trying to get your credit card information or get you to send them money, gift cards, or bank account numbers or trying to gain access to your computer so they can steal your information. Just hang up on these calls right away.
Your best defense is simply hang up or don’t answer a call you do not recognize but if you do answer an incoming call remember these people are experts at fooling you into giving them information and money. Never do these things; never give them any information about you, do not give them your name, address, credit card numbers, number of people living in the house, social security number, Medicare/Medicaid numbers, bank numbers, place of work, passwords, messages on your computer, or email addresses.
They may offer to send you something for free or at a very low price and all they need is your address to send the item and a credit card to cover low shipping cost. Once you have given that information, they have successfully stolen all the information they need sell your credit card on the dark web. Do not purchase anything from anyone that calls you.
Do not give a donation to anyone that calls you. If you feel the cause is worthy, ask them to send you information in the mail telling them you will decide then and will mail a check. Do not commit to an amount.
Don’t purchase gift cards to pay someone who calls you. Legitimate organizations do not accept gift cards as a form of payment. Never put cash in the mail even if they tell you “your nephew was arrested in a remote city and needs cash for bail”. Never meet someone to pay a debt someone calls you about on the phone.
Block Illegitimate Calls
First make certain all of your phone numbers are registered with the National Do Not Call Registry at https://donotcall.gov. Legitimate organizations are supposed to check this list and not call numbers on the list. Of course, the real problem is from callers that do not follow the law.
Many scam calls to your home phone can be blocked for free using a service called Nomorobo https://www.nomorobo.com. When a recognized scam call is coming-in, the phone rings once and Nomorobo prevents the call from ringing again. This is also available as a paid service for your mobile phones.
Recent changes in the law require all mobile phone carriers to offer a way of blocking incoming SPAM calls. Contact your carrier to find out how to enable this feature on your mobile phone. All Android phones offer the ability to put a block on any incoming number that you determine is a spam caller. Newer versions of the Android dialer will automatically flag incoming spam calls, so you know to hang-up immediately.
Some Other Common Scams
Calls for Back Pain or Pain Management are scams trying to use you to help them steal from Medicare and Medicaid. Vacation scams try to convince that you have won a vacation prize for only $299. Most of these turn out to be flat out fraud or are tied to timeshare scams. Time share scams try to get you to purchase a time share for thousands that can often be purchased for a few dollars online or try to get you to sell your timeshare for an up-front fee.
Duct cleaning companies call to offer a service that the HVAC industry says is not needed for most homes. These and other home service callers frequently have no valid local address and are not licensed by the state as required. If I have an interest in the services a company is offering, always ask for their company name, address, website, and phone number and then call them back after you have confirmed the information by searching online. I also always ask for the Maryland Home Improvement Council (MHIC) number of anyone that calls offering home improvement services. If they do not have one, they are not operating legally in the state of Maryland.
November is our annual Holiday shopping column. In the meantime, stay safe and secure.