Unsolicited phone calls from strangers can be downright frustrating. They also may pose a serious threat—scammers know exactly how to trick us into providing sensitive information that could lead to huge financial losses.
The FBI recently has warned phone scams are on the rise during the pandemic, and scammers are especially preying on seniors.
The most recent scams involve callers claiming they are with the Department of Homeland Security and they want to ensure you are not a victim of identity theft. Other scammers say they are with the Department of Health and Human Services and need your personal health information so they can update official COVID-19 records.
Scammers are trying to get you to reveal data such as your Social Security number, date of birth, credit or debit card information, driver’s license number or bank account details. They then will use this data to drain your accounts and/or steal your identity.
To avoid falling prey, the FBI advises:
- Be very careful answering calls from unknown phone numbers; instead, let them go to voicemail.
- If you are asked to push a button (“Please press ‘1’”) to remove yourself from future calls, do not! Instead, hang up. Scammers use this trick to identify and target live respondents who will be home to take future calls.
- Avoid answering the question “Can you hear me?” If you answer “yes” to any question, scammers can use a recording of that portion of the call to say you authorized unwanted charges.
- Never provide personal data, such as your Social Security or bank account numbers, over the phone if you do not know the caller … even if the person assures you they are with the police, sheriff’s office, your bank or a government agency.
- Regularly check your accounts, including your bank account and credit card statements, to make sure withdrawals aren’t occurring without your authorization.
If you believe you may have fallen prey, immediately call your bank and credit card companies, plus notify the Better Business Bureau, and follow their advice. Scammers are very good at what they do, so never feel embarrassed if you think you have been fooled. Instead, take action to protect yourself.