4 ways to protect yourself from phone scams

Photo Credit: Michael Burrows / Pexels

Have you received a call from a number you think you should know or recognize? Phone scams are only successful if a potential target answers the call so the scammer can initiate a conversation. Using advanced technology, scammers modify how phone numbers appear on your caller ID to trick you into answering.

According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), “neighbor spoofing” is a popular scam strategy that makes it seem like you’re receiving a call from a local number. Seeing the area code, you may think it could be from a friend, neighbor or local business, prompting you to answer in case it’s important or an emergency from a known source.

Scammers have gotten more aggressive during the pandemic. According to a T-Mobile 2021 year-end Scam and Robocall Report, scam attempts have increased 116% since 2020. Every week, on average, there are 425 million scam calls attempted.

While everyone can be susceptible to phone scams, Latinos and other people of color have become one of the largest targets for internet, phone and text scams. According to a recent survey by AARP, 40% of Latino and Black adults have been targeted by online scams and fraud, and 1 in 5 have lost money to fraudsters.

If you, or someone you know, are receiving calls from unknown numbers, or even ones that may seem familiar, here are four ways you can protect yourself from potential scam calls.

  1. Don’t answer unless you recognize the caller

The easiest way to protect yourself from scammers is to simply not answer or respond. Whether it’s a call or text, let it go to voicemail or just ignore, even if it’s a call from a local number you think you should recognize.

If it’s really important, maybe a call from your bank, a family friend or work, they’ll be more likely to leave a message with a call-back number. Confirm the call-back number on a company’s website before calling back.

  1. Never confirm or share information

Scammers are after your personal information, so if you do pick up a call or read a text from an unfamiliar number, do not confirm or share any sensitive, personal information over the phone. Even something as simple as confirming your name can leave you vulnerable to scammers.

  1. Add your phone to the Do Not Call list

The National Do Not Call Registry is a database maintained by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that stops unwanted calls. You can register your cellphone number on the registry’s website. While the Do Not Call Registry doesn’t stop all calls from real companies, it does let telemarketers know that your number is off-limits.

While adding your phone number to the registry won’t block scams, it does make them easier to spot. If you receive phone calls and texts from unknown numbers after adding your number to the Do Not Call list, you’ll know that they’re likely scams.

  1. Use scam call-protection services

There are several apps and services that can help cut down the number of unwanted calls and texts you receive. Several phone carriers now offer call-blocking services to their customers to help protect them from scams.

“Scammers are relentless, but so are we,” said Jorge Martel, vice president and general manager, T-Mobile Puerto Rico Region. “With Latinos and other communities of color more susceptible to scam calls and online fraud, we are working to make a scammer’s job as hard as possible.”