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Phone Scams Throughout the Years

Phone scams are big business, and the trend is on the rise. Since late 2013, 5,000 victims were scammed out of more than $26.5 million.

phone scams

Why Are Phone Scams on the Rise?

It’s been made easier through technology and an interconnected globe. Robocalls automate the process of calling massive numbers of people. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that the costs for these mass callings is less than 1 cent per minute.

Whereas it used to cost $20,000 to set up phone line services that mask the outgoing number, now the caller’s phone number can be masked using a caller ID spoofing application, which costs about 20 cents per minute.

The people in charge of these scams escape detection and prosecution by hiding in other countries. Long-distance calls made through VoIP technology is also cheap. Overseas labor is cheap, and phone scam call centers are common in India, the Philippines, Costa Rica and Peru.

The Scammer’s Lie

Scammers say they can make $10,000 in a single day, and about 1 in 50 people will fall for their ploy.

They target seniors because they are more likely to have a nest egg, be more polite and be more gullible. One phone scam involves the caller posing as a relative or friend, saying there is an emergency and they must wire money immediately. Since 2010, more than 40,000 of these “grandparent scams” were reported.

Other fraudulent phone calls include loan scams, phony debt collectors, utility scams and fake charities, among others. One scam that lasted from 2008 to 2012 was run by a single family that used a fundraising pitch for fake cancer charities to collect $187 million from unsuspecting donors.

In another scam, the caller poses as a lottery official who announces that you’ve won a free vacation or prize, but before collecting the prize, you must first pay fees and taxes. Another scam is aimed at your computer. The caller pretends to be tech support and walks you through a series of steps that install malware. Since many email spam blockers are becoming more effective, these phone callers open gates that would have been otherwise unavailable to hackers.

The IRS phone scam has been making headlines, as fake tax collectors call about back taxes that are owed. In 2016, IRS tax scams increased by 400%. More than 1 million people reported that they have received the phone call. More than 5,000 were victims of the scam, losing more than $29 million.

And those who have been a victim of a scam are more heavily targeted, with reports saying these lists of names are passed around to other scammers.

Going Beyond the Phone Scam

A phone scam is not the only IRS-based fraud. With a name, date of birth, and Social Security Number, identity thieves are filing false tax returns and making a profit. In 2013, the IRS paid $5.2 billion worth of fraudulent tax return claims.

The scam of cloning a Facebook profile is also seeing a resurgence. With Snopes dating this scam back to 2012, a duplicate copy of your profile is created by the scammer. This is done by friending you or using public posts to mirror your profile. Then, this impersonation is used to befriend your friends. The goals of these scams vary, with reported scams including extortion of money using a desperate plea to friends, links to malicious sites that contain malware or collection of personal information from users that can be used for identity theft. To protect their scamming, the creators of the fake profile will block the real owner from seeing the cloned page so you remain unaware of the scammer.

Protect Yourself

Scepticism is a helpful tool. Avoid sending money to someone you don’t know.

When posting online, use privacy settings to protect your information because public posts can be used by scammers to develop their con story.

Do not share your information with anyone who calls on the telephone. If you do receive a call from your bank or some other legitimate-sounding business or agency, verify the truth of that call by hanging up and calling a known phone number for the caller. If the story doesn’t match, it was a fraud.

Block Scammers Before The Phone Rings

The call blocking features that are available with all Ooma telephone services will stop the phone scammer before the first “hello”. Our lists of spammers include nearly a million numbers that have been identified from spammer databases and Ooma community members. And because scammers are nimble and can easily change their phone numbers, Ooma’s system is continuously updated with the latest reports and lists.

Additionally, Ooma’s customizable call blocking lets you adjust your personal settings to your preferred level of blocking. Users can choose to block calls from known spammers, suspected spammers and anonymous calls. The strictest privacy setting is contacts-only where you’ll only receive calls from people that you know. No one wants to be a victim of a phone scam, and Ooma strives to do our part to keep you safe.



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Anat Hazanchuk

Anat is the Sr. Social Media Marketing Manager at Ooma. With over seven years of experience in Social Media, her early adoption of popular social media platforms allows her to stay one step ahead in the social media realm. Her experience, goal-oriented personality, and understanding of engagement and metrics lead her to create social media solutions that provide measurable results. Anat holds a BS in Marketing and a minor in Communications from Arizona State University.

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