You receive a call from someone claiming that they’re from the IRS, and yet another from someone requesting money for disaster assistance. You’re skeptical about them both because you know that scam calls are so rampant.
You have every right to be because statistics show that phone scams are so common that more than 70 million Americans lost money to them in 2022. Yes, and the numbers continue to grow year after year.
In this article, we’ll highlight, with the help of statistics, some of the reasons people fall prey to phone scams and discuss a few ways you can protect yourself against them.
What exactly is a phone scammer?
A phone scammer is a person who misrepresents themselves over the phone with the intention of tricking you into sending money or providing sensitive information.
How can you protect yourself from phone scammers?
Truecaller, in its 2022 US Spam & Scam Report, notes that 26% of Americans reported losing money through phone scams—up from 23% in 2021. Scammers are leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to get your personal details or money, so it is imperative that you’re able to recognize a phone scam and act quickly to protect yourself from it. Using our tips below can help.
1. Remain alert to the existence of scams
It is important for you to ensure that you verify the identity of the people with whom you speak over the phone. PhoneHistory or TrueCaller enable you to do that with their reverse phone lookup features. If it turns out that a person is in fact misrepresenting themselves, it is essential that you terminate the call immediately and block future calls from them.
2. Use strong passwords
Strong passwords must be created to protect your data. While your password must be memorable for you, it must also be difficult for anyone else to guess. GCFGlobal recommends that you never use personal information that can easily be retrieved, but rather use passwords longer than six characters that incorporate upper and lowercase letters together with numbers and symbols.
3. Be wary of phone calls requesting remote access to your computer
Never give remote access to your computer—not to anyone, not even if they claim to be representatives of well-known companies. Scammers tend to ask that you turn on your computer so that they can install a free upgrade or fix a problem, when, in fact, they are actually installing a virus to give them access to your sensitive information and passwords.
4. Secure your personal information
Install a mailbox lock and shred your important documents before discarding them. Store pin numbers and passwords in a safe place. Be extra careful about the type of personal information you share on social media sites. Your pictures and information can be used to target you.
5. Never use the same password on multiple accounts
It’s advisable not to use the same password for multiple accounts as it increases their vulnerability once discovered. Additionally, instead of leaving accounts dormant, you should consider closing them. Leaving an account that you do not use open increases your vulnerability to a data breach because you might not notice unusual activity if you never use the account. Dormant accounts could also make your other accounts easy targets.
6. Change passwords regularly
Passwords should also be changed regularly because it has been reported that data breaches occur over extended periods and many remain unreported for years after the breach. Regularly changing passwords does not eliminate the risk but greatly reduces it.
7. Wipeout your devices before discarding them
If you plan to throw out an old computer, you need to ensure that the hard drive is properly wiped out first. Don’t just delete the files; wipe them out completely.
8. Keep software updated
Keeping your software updated will also help protect your data because it will eliminate the weaknesses that were present in the older software versions and, in effect, will strengthen your system.
9. Let antivirus scans help you
Using antivirus scans will remove viruses from your device, so consider installing antivirus software on each of your devices. Also, backing up your data on external drives will be more efficient at keeping hackers away compared to using cloud storage.
10. Beware of malicious emails
Because many breaches occur as a result of people inadvertently opening malicious emails, you need to be very careful where you click. Even though the emails appear to be from your contacts, if they contain links, you need to determine whether they are genuine before you open them, and always use antivirus software when opening attachments.
11. Be careful with credit card information
Online shopping, although common, is a prime concern. A wise option is to use e-wallets or virtual debit cards as opposed to credit cards. However, if credit cards are used, it is very important to ensure that the websites where you share sensitive information are secure. That is, among other things, URLs with “HTTPS” rather than just “HTTP” indicating that the websites encrypt all client’s data.
12. Virtual Private Networks help
Another suggestion is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection as opposed to public Wi-Fi. A VPN provides a secure connection that is guaranteed to keep your information safe as it keeps hackers out. While there are good free VPNs available, paying for one will provide a stronger bandwidth with no ads.
What should you do if you fall prey to a phone scammer?
Acting quickly is your best bet; remember to regularly monitor your accounts so that you will become aware of unfamiliar activity early enough to take swift action. If you notice unfamiliar activity on an account, change your password immediately, along with all security questions and answers and PIN codes associated with that account.
Phone scams continue to plague our society, despite our best efforts to combat them. No one will ever be totally safe from them. However, taking all of the aforementioned steps can prove very helpful in protecting yourself against phone scammers.