How to spot and stop phone scams in 2024

Written by Nicky Walker - Senior Marketing Developer
Incoming phone call
17th October 2017 

We frequently read about the dangers, or perceived dangers, of smartphones these days, whether it be from arthritis in our thumbs to walking into a tree as we browse through our Facebook feed. But despite this, the number one danger still remains: actually receiving phone calls from would-be scammers.

It’s a shame that some unscrupulous people choose to use this route, but when you think about the potential gains from just one phone call paying off, then it’s no wonder conmen and scammers still rely on catching out innocent members of the public.


Understanding the concept of a phone scam

The simple way to explain a phone scam is to say that you are talking to a dishonest caller. They are people who state a situation that is actually not true. Common examples are people posing as employees of reputed companies when they are not, asking for personal information. In some cases, they may manipulate the call receiver for money.

Phone scams can vary. They may come in the form of fake charities, phishing scams, or debt collectors. The main objective, more often than not, is to obtain your personal information to get access to, and steal, your hard-earned money.

As is obvious, being a victim of a phone scam can be very stressful and tragic in many cases. Therefore, it is important to identify the signs in order to know when you are at risk of being scammed.


Signs of a phone scam:

  • Receiving calls from so-called brands without expecting
  • Number you don’t recognize
  • Stating an offer too good to be true
  • A pre-recorded call
  • Caller inducing a sense of urgency
  • Caller directing to certain websites or providing apparent legitimate business


How to avoid phone scams:

  • If you ever think a call is suspicious from the get-go, don’t respond and hang up
  • Download an application on your smartphone that can block suspicious numbers and prevent future stress
  • Don’t reveal any personal information unless you are absolutely sure that you are talking to an authorized person
  • If a certain scam trend is going around, be aware and informed
  • Don’t fall for unauthorized calls that are apparently from your subscriptions. Make a list of codes that belong to your subscriptions
  • In case of repeated suspicious calls, file a complaint with a relevant authority
  • Try limiting the number of people you choose to reveal your number to
  • Block nuisance calls, marketing calls and sales calls on your mobile phone


Looking out for the elderly and vulnerable

Elderly lady answering a phonecallRealistically, phone scammers are not really looking to speak with people who are able to understand the risks of the modern world. They are looking for people who are maybe a little more trusting and less likely to ask pertinent questions. Unfortunately some older people do tend to fall into this bracket and are therefore far more likely to accidently give a scammer useful data that can be used against them.

If you are suspicious that an elderly relative has been a victim then a really great website to visit is Think Jessica which is a registered charity that helps identify scams targetting elderly and vulnerable people in the UK. If you still have cause for concern, help them contact to their bank and/or police.


Identifying and blocking known suspicious numbers

At Connect we answer thousands of calls a week for our clients and we have built systems to help operators alert us when a suspicious call is received. We then investigate calls from that particular number, or range of numbers, and we can block future calls if necessary.

You can also block calls via your smartphone as most modern ones allow you to add to a “blocked” list of sorts or you can download an app such as Truecaller which has created a directory of known nuisance callers for you to check and hopefully block.


TOP TIP – call them back

Never, ever give personal or security information to anyone that calls claiming to be from a bank or other financial service, instead offer to call them back. By all means let them give you a number to call them back on but don’t actually use it for anything other than to check them up. Call back the company on their official number or one that you know to be correct from a statement.

If possible, try to call back from a different phone than the one they called you on. Why? Well a very recent and sophisticated scam actually requested that the victim do indeed call their bank but the scammer never really hung up, instead they played a dial tone down the line. The victim dialled their bank but was never connected to where they thought they were calling (as they did not have a new phone line) and ended up giving all the information to the scammer who answered as if it were the bank.

If you can’t call from another line then wait a good five or ten minutes whilst you check out the caller’s story on the internet.


Register with the TPS (Telephone Preference Service)

You should register with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) if you are getting unsolicited calls.

The TPS is a register that you may use for free to indicate that you would prefer not to receive unwanted calls for sales or marketing. You can file a complaint with the TPS, and it will look into it, if you’ve registered and are still getting unsolicited calls.

However, because the TPS has enforcement authority, it is unable to hold the company accountable for the excessive number of unsolicited calls you received.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which has the authority to take action, receives complaints from the TPS even though it is unable to bring legal action.

Companies are not allowed to call consumers who are registered on the TPS without getting their express permission.


Stop Phone Scams FAQs

Is it better to ignore or decline nuisance phone calls?

The best course of action after receiving a spam robocall is to not answer. Even if you don’t fall for the scam calls, the con artists will still view your number as “good” if you answer the call.


What happens if I answer a spam or nuisance call?

Scammers can target you with more spam calls if you unintentionally answer a call that appears to be from a real person. These targeted spam calls aim to fool you into disclosing personal information that would enable identity thieves, money launderers, and even voice thieves to take your identity and voice.


Can a scammer do anything with your phone number?

Once they have your phone number, scammers can use it to send you phishing SMS and calls, mislead you into downloading malware, or trick you into divulging personal information. Additionally, it doesn’t take much longer for them to access your financial and other sensitive accounts once they have access to your personally identifiable information (PII).


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