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How to Spot and Report Phone Scams

Learn how to recognize phone scams, file a complaint when appropriate and protect your personal and financial information.

Unwanted phone calls are a nuisance and invade your privacy. But even worse, phone scams could cost you anywhere from a few dollars to your life savings. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to not answer telephone calls from numbers you don’t recognize. Or if you do answer but don’t know the caller, just hang up.  

How to Spot a Phone Scam

Telephone scammers often try to hook you with enticing offers, appeals for charitable causes, or claims of being associated with the government. They won’t allow time for you to think through their pitch. They will pressure you to make a decision. 

Regardless of their behavior or message, a phone scammer’s goal is to get you to either send them money or provide your personal information. 

Below are common warning signs of a phone scam: 

  • A claim that you have been specially selected
  • Use of high-pressure sales tactics and “limited-time” offers
  • Reluctance to answer questions about the business or the offer 
  • Request that you “confirm your personal information”
  • Request payment by means other than credit card –including cash, gift card, wire transfer or private courier 
  • Request your credit card or other payment mechanism for “shipping and handling”
  • Use of threats if you don’t comply – even the threat of arrest 
  • The call starts with a prerecorded message – called a “robocall”
  • Claims you have a virus on your computer or requests to log in to your computer
  • Claims to be a friend or relative in need of money – but they don’t give you any time to think or contact others 

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