As more and more people rely on texting and other digital forms of communication, a larger percentage of phone calls are coming from scammers. By the end of the year, as many as half of all calls will be scams.
Attorney Loni Coombs has some tips for avoiding those calls and protecting yourself from scammers if you do pick up.
Beware of robocalls
Robocalls, calls made by machines that feature a voice recording, aren't all bad. A number of legitimate organizations like schools, businesses and political groups use them to spread information efficiently. Robocalls can also be a tool for scammers. "If they're asking you to buy something, they want to sell something to you, if you haven't given them written consent prior to them calling, that's illegal," Coombs said. "As soon as you realize that's what is happening, you hang up the phone."
Coombs said the sooner you get off the phone, the better, and to not push any buttons. "If you press a number, you're going to start getting more robocalls," Coombs said.
Protect your information
It might seem obvious that you shouldn't hand over your personal or financial information over the phone, but sometimes it's not that simple as robocalls are becoming more sophisticated. "They might already have your information and they want you to confirm with a yes," Coombs said. "If you give them a yes, they will use that to say 'they actually consented to us charging their account.'"
Don't trust caller ID
It used to be easy to spot a scam before you even answered the phone because it would show up as a strange area code on your caller ID. But that's changed. "Now they're doing what they call 'neighborhood spoofing', which is where they actually use a fake number in your area code so you'll think 'oh, this is ok, this is somebody that I know' and you pick up," said Coombs.
Get on a "do not call" registry
"Do not call" registries are a handy way to avoid scams, but they doesn't mean you'll stop getting unwanted calls altogether. "What it does is it actually blocks the legitimate telemarketers from giving you a phone call," Coombs said. "You'll still get robocalls but it means they are a scam, you'll know that they're scams and you'll hang up immediately."