How to Identify and Protect Against Telephone Fraud

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Telephone fraud, or more simply put, phone scams. At some point in your life you will most likely fall victim to one, everyone does. Actually, a study showed that 27 million people fell victim to phone scams in 2015 alone. But what exactly is telephone fraud, how do you tell if you're becoming a victim of it, and how do you protect yourself against it? With everyone having their phone on them 24/7 now a days, telephone fraud is becoming more and more common. While telephone fraud is a tricky thing, there are ways to ensure that you don't lose a dime to these scams ever again.

First, let's go over what telephone fraud is. Telephone fraud is when someone calls you and tries to convince you to give up your personal information so that they can then use that information to steal or solicit money from you. Have you ever picked up the phone and heard, "Hello, you have been randomly selected to receive, [insert name of crazy thing no one would pass up]", Odds are, that was a scam. There's many more tag lines like this used to reel you in before asking for sensitive information that should never be given out. However, scammers are not dumb. Sometimes they will go to great lengths in order to get the information they want, including sending letters to your address with a trusted company name on them, or emailing you about a service you already have. These are just a few of the ways scamming takes place, and many more are being brought to light each and every day that telephone fraud continues to go on.

How can you be sure that it's telephone fraud? What if a Saudi Arabian Prince really did leave you 1 million dollars and all you need to do is provide your social security number to receive it? As goofy as that sounds, that's exactly what you need to be protected against. As for identifying telephone fraud, it can be difficult. No phone scammer is going to start the conversation by telling you their intentions. Instead, they might try to ease into it, and ask about your family, or where your from. Other times they may be aggressive and threaten you with fines or jail time if you don't give them your information. Because of this, the best way to identify a phone scam is just to be smart and cautious. If you know that you've never had a millionaire uncle, then he probably didn't leave you 200 thousand dollars in his will. Or if you haven't received a letter about jury duty from your government, then there's most likely no warrant out for your arrest. Ensure that if a number you don't recognize calls you and starts making aggressive statements or asking funny questions, you hang up immediately.

There are ways to help protect against these methods of fraud. The first and most important way is to never give out your personal information. This doesn't just mean don't give out your social security number, but also don't give out your name, address, or email. All of these are things that would help a scammer continue to make contact with you in order to get what they want. Another method in protecting yourself is to not answer. Either ignore phone calls from random numbers or allow them to leave a message. Listen to said message, and hear what company or business they claim to be calling from. Then, look up the real number to that business to ensure it's the real deal. You can also take your time, many scammers try to push a time limit on you to get this information. Always remain calm and composed, but still pay close attention. Ask for credentials to make sure that whoever you're talking to is legit. Finally, help protect others. If you are sure that you're dealing with a phone scammer you should always report the phone number to the FTC, (Federal Trade Commission). They will enter any fraud-related complaints into a secure online database known as the Consumer Sentinel. This is available to civil and criminal law enforcement agencies across the globe.

Overall, telephone fraud is a very serious scam that anyone could fall for. Although some scammer's tactics come off as silly, others are well planned and organized, aiming to take as much of your hard-earned money as they can. You may register for the "National Do Not Call Registry", even though most phone scammers know their way around it. Always make sure when dealing with unknown numbers that you stay smart, careful, and never give out your information. Scams and telephone fraud are going to happen everyday whether we like it or not, but you can definitely do your part to ensure that they aren't successful.

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