Phone scams happen on a daily basis. We hate them. They’re the bane of our existence. Okay, perhaps you might think we’re exaggerating a little bit here, but it’s the truth. Phone scams are invasive and come at us without warning. At a less threatening level, they interrupt the momentum of our day and make us irritable. On a more serious note, they have the potential of stealing our valuable personal information and can create serious financial and legal problems for us.
Scams are not always obvious to spot, even for some of us who are more savvy. The problem is that they’re always evolving – this is a common trait among hackers and cyber criminals in general. As technology progresses, so do their malicious tactics evolve, forcing us to keep up with the latest phone scams if we want to protect ourselves and our digital lives.
What Is a Mobile Phone Scam?
We do everything on our smartphones. For almost all of us, our phones are an integral part of our lives and we can’t do without them. It’s got to a point where many people actually have withdrawal symptoms from not having their phones with them. This tells us that a lot of ourselves are attached to these devices. It also means that we need to protect them and the personal information we keep on them more closely.
A phone scam works on deception and social engineering to trick us into giving away personal information to the scammer, or to provide consent about something while the wool was pulled over our eyes. These scams aim to gain our banking details, email addresses, and other sensitive information over to the scammer, so that they are able to sell that data or use it to gain access to our accounts or finances. They also work to trick us into installing malware onto our devices that harvest our information while we’re unaware.
To prevent falling into these traps, we’ll need to understand what some of the most common types of phone scams are, to begin with.
One Ring Scams
Calls from numbers that you don’t know are anxiety-inducing for many. Millennials are very aware of this and have generally become suspicious of receiving a phone call without prior notice no matter what. Perhaps this makes them less susceptible to one ring scams, but this is not always the case.
This type of scam is popular due to the fact that it works on your inherent curiosity. You’ll receive a call from an unknown number, but it will only ring once. The scammer hopes that you’ll then return the call. Of course, it’s best that you don’t. If it’s a legitimate call, you’ll likely be notified or the missed call will be followed up by a message or an email.
If you were to return the call, you’ll end up forking over money to the scammer. In most cases, they’re calling from an international number, thereby increasing the tariff cost. Some one ring scams might also leave you a voicemail to further tempt you into returning their call. You should remain suspicious of these.
Phone Vishing and SMS Phishing
Vishing, which is short for voice phishing works similarly to phishing emails or pop ups that you may receive on the web. With vishing, scammers pose to be from an organization you can trust. This works using social engineering psychology, tricking you into believing that the person on the other end is an individual of authority.
They employ tactics of urgency, making it sound essential that you give them your personal information or money. Because vishing scammers rely on urgency, they would usually feed you information over the phone that makes you act out of panic. For these scammers, getting you to act during the call is essential for them.
Similarly, SMS phishing gets you to act over a text message. Usually, they’d send you a link that directs you to download malware without you realizing it, causing your phone to become infected with spyware or malware of other sorts. However, these scams also involve tricking you into a subscription or sending you a link that will require you to submit sensitive personal information.
Phone Virus Scams
These scams look a lot like the kind of popup messages you might find while browsing on a desktop. The only difference is that they appear while you’re browsing on your phone, or sometimes even in an advert in an app. In most cases, you’ll receive an alert that, again, works on urgency. You’ll be notified that a virus or malware has been detected on your phone, urging you to take immediate action.
This leads you to download their own, so-called, antivirus app, which is exactly the opposite. What you end up downloading instead is spyware or malware.
So How do You Protect Yourself from the Phone Scams?
Download a Call Blocking App
Call blocking apps are really helpful in preventing both scam calls and spam calls. These identify and prevent robocalls, or, at the very least, alert you with a banner when you receive the call that alerts you to the fact the call you’re receiving is from a suspicious number.
Secure Your Phone
Make sure to keep up to date with your smartphone’s software updates. These are important as they patch your phone with the latest security updates to stay on top of mobile phone threats.
Also, invest in reliable cyber security for your phone. Yes, this means antivirus and antimalware software is not just for your laptop and desktop anymore.
If you were to answer a call and are asked questions regarding your personal information, ignore the caller and don’t interact. At the very least, ensure that you don’t respond in the affirmative at all, as scammers will use this in some way as if you’re giving consent.
Hang up the call. If you’re curious and think that the caller was legit, check up with the organization by calling their official number to verify if the call was approved by them.
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