Although technology has brought new channels of communication, the telephone has remained one of the preferred weapons of choice for scammers. According to the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information, phone calls are the number one means through which people report having been contacted by fraudsters. According to this institution, in 2019 people that answered scamming calls and lost some money had a median loss of a thousand dollars. Some of the most common scams over the telephone include:
- People calling you to tell you that you have won a prize or won the lottery, but there is a fee you have to pay.
- Making threats of being arrested or made to pay a bigger fine if you do not comply with paying some money now. No law enforcement agency will contact you through the telephone.
- Any company or government agency in need of you to confirm some sensitive data, like your social security number, for any purpose. Sensitive data should never be shared by telephone.
- A distant relative asking for some money and putting pressure on the urgency or refusing to give you time to contact other relatives.
- Robocalls, where machines are used to call people. You can identify this type of scam when it is not a person, but a recording that starts the call. According to the New York Times, this type of scam is on the rise since it is very cheap and easy to make and a machine can make a big amount of calls per day. Whenever you hear a recording is calling you, hang up. No serious company will use such a method to contact you.
Useful Tools for Reverse Phone Lookup
Being able to identify the person behind the latest telephone call is not only useful to prevent money scams. Are you receiving weird phone calls where people immediately hang up? Are you looking at the caller list and you cannot recognize a number? Reverse phone lookup is the name of a type of technology that helps you identify the caller using a telephone number. Depending on the amount of information you would like to get from the caller, there are different tools in the market that will help you with the task. Here you can find a list with the most useful tools for reverse phone lookup depending on the information you want to get:
- Google Search – This might be the usual place to start your search for the identity of that unknown number. All there is to do is type the number into the Google search. If it is registered to some company, you will even get information right away about their location. In case other people have presented complaints about the number, you might find their posts with warnings. If the caller comes from a different country, you will get information about the country through the prefix.
- Facebook – This social network will be a good choice, but only if the person that owns the number has chosen to add it and set it to public. Of course, fraudsters will not opt for this option. This means that Facebook will tend to only be a useful tool for reverse phone lookup in situations where you are trying to track someone privately.
- Nuwber – This tool allows you to do a direct search of the identity of a person using as an input the name, address, or phone number. In this case, you will type the number with the area code. This tool will be advisable when you want some deeper information from the caller. Nuwber allows you to do a background check that will result in a full report that compiles all the publicly available information of the caller, including marital status, criminal records, and judgments.
- ReversePhoneLookup.com – This a simple site that is free of charge and will help you get the name of the caller whenever Google and Facebook were not helpful. They also have records on cellphones, which is a big advantage.
What should you do if you are being called by a fraudster?
One of the recommendations to prevent being the victim of a telephone scam is to register your number (home and mobile phone) to the National Do Not Call Registry. They will prevent Telemarketers from calling you. The advantage is that if you receive any call that makes any claim that could sound like an offer from a telemarketer you will know that is it is most certainly a scam since telemarketers would not be able to call you in the first place. Please note that other types of organizations like charities, surveys, political groups, or debt collectors are still able to reach you.
If you have already been the victim of a scam you should start by gathering all the information you have including, of course, the phone number, and be prepared to complete a report. Only an estimated 14 percent of the scams are reported, and this is not helping the situation. People tend to feel embarrassed that they were tricked, however, this only promotes impunity and prevents law enforcement agencies from doing a better job. Remember you are not the only person that has been a victim, and your report might prevent someone else from being tricked.
- You should start by contacting your state consumer protection office and, in the case that you have lost some money, contact your local police station as well.
- It is also possible to report telephone scams to the federal government. The Federal Trade Commission is the federal agency that will most like be able to help you the most. You can report your case online or by calling them at 1-877-382-4357.
- If the scam you were subject to has to do with taxes, you can contact the Internal Revenue Service to report suspected tax fraud.
- In case that you need emotional support, Victim Support is a private charity organization that helps victims of crime or any traumatic event.
- In general, it is also very advisable to freeze your credit lines in the 3 biggest credit bureaus from the country.