More than one in five Americans lost money due to call scams in 2022. Robocalls alone cost them $53 billion during the year. Nuisance calls, telemarketing spam, and call scams have all grown in numbers with increasingly sophisticated schemes to target victims.
Understandably, a phone call from an unsaved number can make anyone nervous. But what is the best way to handle unknown calls to avoid spam and scams? Let’s find out.
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Actions to Take if Someone You Don’t Know Calls You
The best course of action when you receive a call from an unknown number is to let it ring. This will often deter nuisance callers and those with criminal intent.
However, ignoring those from unfamiliar numbers is not always practical. There are instances when you would expect a call from a delivery service. A new client or potential employer might also contact you without prior notice. Or, there could be a family emergency or some other unexpected event when someone you don’t know would want to reach you on behalf of your loved ones.
In all these situations, you could miss an important phone call if you ignore every unrecognized number. Learning to handle such situations effectively is the only way to minimize the risk of unnecessary trouble.
But what steps should you take when you are compelled to answer a call from a stranger?
Listen without engaging in a conversation.
The first thing to do is to listen. Let the other person speak and explain the reasons for their call. Generally, you should be able to determine if it is a genuine call during the first few seconds.
However, establishing the authenticity of an unknown caller may not be so straightforward all the time. Therefore, do not engage in a conversation at any point until you are certain of their motives.
Hang up immediately on robocalls and telemarketers.
If you receive an automated call, simply hang up. Robocalls typically provide a series of instructions to target victims. For instance, they might ask you to press a number or say “yes” or “no” to unsubscribe from their databases or opt out of future calls.
Marketing organizations and scammers could later use your response as consent for something entirely different and target you deceptively for a range of marketing and fraudulent schemes.
Telemarketers could also deploy similar strategies to gather customer information and sell various products. So, if you respond once, you are guaranteed to receive many more calls from them. By hanging up as soon as you identify them, you can often avoid their unwelcome advances.
Never provide personal information or make payments.
Some criminal schemes are much more elaborate than simple robocalls and telemarketers. For instance, they could mimic local numbers to avoid raising suspicion—a technique commonly known as neighbor spoofing.
Fraudsters could also use other impersonation methods to conceal their nefarious motives. They could disguise themselves as your bank and call you on the pretext of verifying your bank account details or online account passwords. Or, they may mimic a reputable charity and reach you to ask for a donation. These callers could appear alarmingly genuine and may often pressure you to respond swiftly.
However, keep in mind that most reputed organizations will never call individuals for official matters without prior notice in writing. Neither will they request personal information or payments via phone nor place undue pressure on you to comply with their requests.
Therefore, never provide personal details over the phone to anyone. These include addresses, social security numbers, bank account details, passport numbers, and account login credentials. Especially avoid transferring money based on over-the-phone requests, even if you are contacted by someone claiming to represent the IRS, a charity, or any other reputed organization.
Verify the caller’s identity.
If you are still unsure of the caller’s authenticity, taking time to confirm details is the best solution. Remember, some of them could be genuine, so being courteous is important. Inform them politely that you are not in a position to respond immediately and that you will call them back.
After hanging up, note down the phone number and use PhoneHistory to find its owner’s details. Check whether the name, location, and workplace information match what the caller disclosed to you.
Next, use a search engine to find the official contact number of the organization they represented and reach out to it directly to verify the call.
Report unwanted callers.
If you ever encounter a nuisance, harassing, or fraudulent call, reporting it to the relevant authorities is essential. Before you forget, note down all the details, including the call date and time, the caller’s name and organization, what they have told you, and your response to them. Take screenshots of your call logs and keep copies of voice recordings if available.
Submit a complaint to the National Do Not Call Registry on their website if a telemarketer or robocaller contacts you. Report scams to the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission. In addition, inform the organization the scammers have impersonated. For example, if a caller imitates the Internal Revenue Service, ensure you contact the IRS on their hotline and convey the details of the scam.
To Sum Up
Answering unknown calls could expose you to a variety of dangers. However, avoiding them is not always an option for many people.
When you answer a call from someone you don’t know, listen without engaging in a conversation to find out their intent. If you suspect spam or fraud, hang up immediately without responding or following any automated instructions. Also, avoid sharing personal details or transferring money based on over-the-phone requests. Verify the caller’s identity first and reach out to the relevant organization to authenticate the call. And if you encounter suspicious or deceptive activities, report the caller to the relevant authorities.
In addition, register your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry to avoid robocalls and telemarketers. Also, download a caller ID app that could flag and block spam and scam callers. Many of them will allow you to record voice calls, too, for extra safety.