Phone Scams: Don’t Get Called Off Guard
Every year, thousands of people lose money to scam artists calling over the phone, requesting your personal or credit card information in order to commit fraud, steal your identity, steal funds from your bank accounts, or open new ones. The act of phone scamming is often called “vishing”. Of course we hope vishing will never happen to us, but the best way to protect ourselves is to simply recognizing when it is! With that in mind we’ve come up with a few helpful hints to use as an aid in recognizing when you are being lured in by a vicious visher.
How to Spot a Visher
Here are a few red flags to help you spot telemarketing scams. If you hear a line that sounds like this, hang up, and call the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
- “You've been specially selected (for this offer).”
- “You'll get a free bonus if you buy our product.”
- “You've won one of five valuable prizes.”
- “You've won big money in a foreign lottery.”
- “This investment is low risk and provides a higher return than you can get anywhere else.”
- “You have to make up your mind right away.”
- “You trust me, right?”
- “You don't need to check our company with anyone.”
- “We'll just put the shipping and handling charges on your credit card.”
How They Hook You
Does it sound too good to be true? It probably is. Scammers use exaggerated and/or fake prizes, products or services as bait. They also use pressure to make you act before you think. Here are a few examples of “offers” you might get:
- Travel Packages. “Free” or “low cost” vacations can end up costing a bundle in hidden costs. Some of these vacations never take place, even after you’ve paid.
- Credit and loans. Advance fee loans, payday loans, credit card protection, and offers to lower your credit card interest rates are very popular schemes, especially during a down economy.
- Business and investment opportunities. Scammers rely on the fact that business and investing can be complicated and that most people don’t research the investment.
- Charitable causes. Urgent requests for recent disaster relief efforts are especially common on the phone.
- High-stakes foreign lotteries. You probably won’t even see a ticket.
- Extended car warranties. Vishers find out what kind of car you drive so they can urge you to buy overpriced or worthless plans.
- “Free” trial offers. Some companies use free trials to sign you up for products — sometimes lots of products — which can cost you lots of money because they bill you every month until you cancel.
Why They're Calling You
Everyone’s a potential target when it comes to vishing. That being said, older people may be targeted more often because the caller assumes they may live alone, have a nest egg, or in their old age are mentally incapable of recognizing a stranger on the other line. If you notice your older loved ones responding to these types of calls, make sure you call the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
They Happen Every Day
A recent example of a phone scam we’ve heard of is that someone will call you and leave a message on your voicemail, informing you to call them back immediately because someone in your family has died, is ill, or has been arrested (events that will tug at your heartstrings). But the phone number is actually from the Dominican Republic (809 area code), and if you call them back, you will be charged a minimum of $2425 per minute!
When in doubt, if you don’t recognize the phone number or area code, go online and Google it. Research it on Snopes.com and see if it is a telemarketing scam. You can never be too careful!
Phone Number Spoofing
Making the issue even more complicated is the idea of phone number “spoofing”. Spoofing is the practice in which someone uses technology to display a telephone number on your caller ID that is not their own. It may look like a local number, or a number you trust, which means you’re more likely to pick up the phone. If you receive a telemarketing call from a person or company you believe has spoofed the caller ID, you are advised to file a complaint with the CRTC.
To make a complaint online:
- Go to the National DNCL website.
To make a complaint by phone:
- Call toll-free 1-866-580-DNCL (1-866-580-3625).
- If you are calling from a TTY device, call 1-888-DNCL-TTY (1-888-362-5889).
If you are complaining about fraudulent calls or a spoofing incident you can also report the calls to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.