Telephone Scams To Watch For In 2021
Common Telemarketing Scams
Some of these schemes target specific or groups of individuals, while others involve people being called at random. Some involve phishing, a type of scam in which the caller is trying to find out information (such as personal or banking information) that can be used in other crimes. Phishing via phone is often referred to as voice phishing or ‘vishing’.
You may get a call from someone claiming to be from HMRC saying there is an issue with your tax refund or an unpaid tax bill. They leave a message asking you to call back. HMRC would never contact you in this way and ask for personal information and bank details.
Amazon Prime Scam
You may get a call from someone claiming to be from Amazon Prime saying you’ve been charged for an annual subscription. They then tell you that fraudsters have hacked your account to authorize payment, but it can be cancelled if you press 1 and then give access to your bank account in order to undo the hack. Amazon Prime would never ask you to do this.
The No Hang-Up Scam
This scam is a little more sophisticated than others on the list and involves hijacking the victim's phone line.The scammer will call pretending to be someone from the victim’s bank. The caller actually wants you to become suspicious and call your bank to check if there really is an issue.
The problem is that the fraudster has hijacked the phone line and the call was not hung up. The victim thinks they are speaking to a bank representative, but they are actually speaking to the scammer. By asking a few questions to “authenticate” that the victim is the account holder, the original caller will have enough details to drain the victim’s bank account.
Advance Fee Loans
This scam is very similar to the government grant scam, but instead of posing as a government representative, this call will appear to come from a financial institution representative. You will be told you’ve been approved for a loan but need to pay a small fee in order to receive the funds. You might be asked to send payment or provide banking information. Of course, you should do neither.
Computer Tech Support
This hoax involves someone calling to let you know that your computer needs updating, perhaps claiming that you have downloaded malware or your computer is at risk of having a virus. The caller will ask for remote access to your computer to fix the issue. Access can easily be provided by opening an email link and following a few simple instructions.
The Secret Shopper Scam
If someone approaches you claiming you can earn £500 per week just for shopping at a few stores, it would probably sound too good to be true. Unfortunately, many people have fallen for this scam that can be initiated by email, text, or over the phone. Once you agree to become a “secret shopper,” you will receive a check or money order for a larger sum (often upwards of £2,000). You’re told to keep a fee for yourself (typically a few hundred pounds) and then use the rest at certain stores, banks, or other service providers and report on their customer service.
Tasks might include sending money transfers (back to the scammers) or purchasing gift cards and sending the numbers to your “employer” (read: fraudster). To make the scam even more legitimate-looking, some instructions tell you to simply purchase items and keep them for yourself.
Eventually, once most of the money is spent or handed back in various forms, the check is revealed to be a fake. Note that it might take a few weeks to find out that a check isn’t real, even if the bank has already cleared it.
The “can you hear me?” or “yes” Scam
This con is used to bypass authentication processes that use voice signatures. For example, if your bank uses voice signatures during telephone banking, all a criminal needs is a recording of you saying the right words. Often, the only word they need is “yes.” To get a recording of this, they will call your number and say “Can you hear me?”
When you respond “yes,” they will record you. If you pick up the phone and unfamiliar voice is asking you that question, avoid saying the word “yes” at all. Although this sounds like it would be a rare scam, the TPS has received many complaints.
Other common phone scams
The above scams involve someone calling and trying to sell you a product or service or posing as an existing service provider. Many other scams that are initiated via telephone. Here are just a few to be aware of:
Someone may call claiming to be from your bank saying there’s a problem with your card or account. They may ask for your account, card and PIN details. They may also advise transferring your money to a ‘safe’ account to protect it. A bank would never ask you to do this.
Payment processor scams
These schemes involve victims being approached via email, text, or phone to process payments on the sender’s behalf for a variety of possible reasons. It could be related to donations, loan payments, and more. For each payment processed you’re promised a fee, often 5-10%.
The gist of the scam is that the payment is sent to the victim who is then required to transfer most of the money to another account, keeping a fee for themselves. In most cases, the initial payment to the victim turns out to be fake and they lose the money, but don’t realize until after they have already transferred most of it. In some cases, the payment is real, but has come from a stolen credit card, in which case the main victim is whoever had their card details stolen.
Robocall scams may not be very sophisticated, but because they are automated, they can reach exponentially more people than an individual making cold calls can. Robocall scams vary greatly but all involve an automated message that plays when you answer the phone or check your voicemail.
One scam targets people with Chinese surnames. The message appears to be from the Chinese Consulate and threatens that if the victims don’t hand over money they will face dire consequences, including imminent arrest should they travel to China. Other similar scams involve criminals posing as immigration officials from across the globe.
Schemes involving HRMC involve an automated voice message telling you to call a number.They will typically claim that you have committed some type of tax-related crime and threaten serious action if you don’t follow instructions. Directions might involve wiring or depositing money to an account owned by the criminal.
While most people know that a government agency would never contact you via an automated message, these calls can be frightening enough for some people that they jump into action. For example, many foreign students have fallen for these scams and have lost large sums of money for fear that will be deported if they don’t comply.
However, once they have control of your computer, the scammer can use it to access any personal information you have stored on there, such as private files and folders. They can also use saved credentials in your web browser to log in to various platforms such as your online banking or investment accounts.
On top of that, the scammer might even demand a fee for “fixing” the fake problem.
Grandparent scams prey on vulnerable seniors who would do anything to ensure their grandchild’s safety. The caller poses as a grandchild and states that they are in trouble and need some money to get out of a situation. Perhaps they need help with legal fees or money for transportation from abroad.
The caller gives the grandparent directions for sending money and makes the situation sound urgent so they don’t have time to check it out. They also urge the victim not to tell anyone under the pretense that they don’t want others (such as their parents or partner) to find out about the trouble they’re in. All of this adds credibility to the story behind the scam while also making it more likely that the grandparent will comply.
How to report nuisance calls
Go on the Do Not Call (TPS) list.
In many jurisdictions, you can add your number to a DNC registry. In the UK, this scheme is run by the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). Telemarketers who call people on the DNC list are liable for hefty fines. It definitely doesn’t guarantee you won’t receive any scam calls, but it can reduce the number of calls you receive from legitimate telemarketers, so it’s easier to spot the fakes
How to report suspected phone scams
Action Fraud encourages you to report scams or suspected schemes. Even if law enforcement is unable to investigate every case, knowledge of various hoaxes helps government agencies to issue warnings to other members of the public. Here’s where to report scams for various :
UK: Action Fraud
How to Block Scam Calls
For robust solutions consider using Call Blocking technology.
- CPR Call Blocker (Available on Amazon.co.uk)
For Mobile Phone:
Analytics and analysis provided by Comparitech