With each passing year scammers get smarter and develop new ideas. Luckily, protections against these scams also improve. More people are aware of telecom scams, which means we are better equipped to combat them in the New Year. Here’s what to watch out for in 2016:
Slamming & Cramming: Slamming and cramming occurs when phone companies use third party vendors to fulfill services promised to customers. This alone is not illegal, but many phone bill audits uncover charges like this that were never authorized by the customer. In order to use a third party vendor, telecom companies must disclose which third-party they intend to use and the rate at which the service will be provided. The customer must sign off on it for the agreement to be lawful.
“Ghost Calls:” Have you ever received a phone call from an unrecognized number that didn’t leave a voicemail? These scammers do just that – and they count on the fact that you will want to call them back. The problem is, they use premium numbers that charge you for the call. Be wary of premium phone numbers like this. They usually begin with 076, 090 or 190.
Prize Winners: Prizes, sweepstakes, “free” vacations, and other goodies sound great, but most of these phone calls are just a way for scammers to get their victims’ information. Other variations of this scam include scammers posing as bankers who need your personal information to process a tax refund or bank fee. If you did not apply for the prize, just hang up.
Offers with a Time Limit: Beware of anything that requires you to make a decision on the spot as opposed to calling back later on a verified line. Most scammers want fast, easy money and know that once their victims have time to do research, the game is over. If the caller tries to pressure you into making a quick decision, it’s likely a scam.
The “Computer Virus” Scam: Computer companies do not track individual computers, and thus will not call users to inform them of viruses or “security breaches” on home or business computers. If someone calls trying to get your information to fix malware on your computer, assume it is a scam and simply hang up.
Some scammers will try to pose a figures of authority such as your own phone company or your personal bank. Keep in mind bank representatives will ask verification questions to ensure you are who you say you are, but will never ask you for personal information such as your credit card number or address. That information is already on file with the bank and does not need to be verified.
Additional scams to avoid:
- Calls selling products or services through fake government grants
- Callers “phishing” for personal information
- Callers offering to perform free services for a fee
- Scammers “spoofing” phone numbers to beat caller ID
Avoiding scams is easier than you might think. Simply follow the steps below for safe telecom use in 2016:
- Perform regular telecom bill audits
- Watch for unknown numbers
- Join the do-not-call list
- Decline to give personal information over the phone
- Refuse to pay suspicious telecom or bank charges
- Report scamming incidents to your phone provider
When in doubt, hang up and call the organization back using a verified phone number such as the toll-free line provided on their website. Many people also choose to ask the caller for their business’ information, which they can then research through the Better Business Bureau (keep in mind not all scammers will be truthful about their employers). Telecommunications audits and bill management can also help catch errors that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.
Protect yourself this year and educate yourself on popular telecom scams. The more you know about scams, the better you can protect yourself and your business.