Your phone is ringing for what seems like the hundredth time this week – it’s a number that looks nearly identical to yours except for a few digits. Do you answer?
What is a Robocall?
Scammers are continually looking for ways to rob unsuspecting consumers of their privacy and financial information. Phones are now ringing with what looks like a familiar but random number, often several times a day or week.
Robocalls as they are called, automatically dial you multiple times using sophisticated software, hoping to acquire sensitive personal information such as credit card and banking details to pursue financial fraud or scams.
In 2017, over 30 billion robocalls were placed. Now in 2018, robocalls continue to increase exponentially nationwide, with a 40 percent increase in frequency since February of this year. As scammers enhance their tactics and technology improves, it’s critical to remain aware of the latest schemes and to take steps to protect yourself.
Increasingly complex technology
Technology involved with robocalls continues to grow increasingly complex. High-tech systems like TelWeb are used for making billions of illegal robocalls automatically, often masking them as a call originating from your local area code in an attempt to represent someone in your community. The logic is that you’ll answer a familiar looking number versus something foreign or an 800-number.
Fraudsters are also spoofing legitimate businesses’ phone numbers, making the caller ID indistinguishable from the real institution. As if this isn’t enough to worry about, now many imposters are impersonating the U.S. government and IRS, often threatening legal action unless a penalty or back-taxes are paid to them.
Regardless of their tactic, the hope is that you will pick up and begin engagement, attempting to siphon valuable information or trick you into an unnecessary payment. Although it can be difficult to ascertain if a calling number is a robocall, we’ve compiled the most often used numbers for these scams.
Top 10 Robocallers
- 800-955-6600: Capital One
- 800-266-2278: Comcast Customer Service
- 877-647-8552: Wells Fargo
- 888-222-4227: Santander Consumer
- 347-394-2956: Portfolio Recovery
- 954-603-1220: Portfolio Recovery
- 800-947-5096: AT&T
- 866-532-0423: Citibank
- 844-669-7904: Fingerhut
- 866-408-4070: Barclays Bank Debt Collectors
Tips for Protecting Yourself
While fraudsters’ methodologies and tactics evolve with technology, so does fighting back and protecting your identity and phone number. Leading authorities including phone carriers and tech-companies are creating a number of tools to block or reduce the number of these calls.
You can purchase equipment or download an app on your device for intercepting and blocking calls on a blacklist of known illegal robocallers. Some of these options are free or offer limited trials while others may cost only a few dollars. An example of an application the Republic team personally has used and like is Hiya, available free of charge for Android and iOS. The app alerts you of suspected robocallers as the calls come in. You also have the option to automatically send these to your voicemail or block them altogether. Though these apps are useful, it may be beneficial to start with your telephone provider first to see which blocking options are available to you.
While you should be alert to these types of scams, some are legitimate calls, including charities, bill collectors and other institutions. The best recommendation is to protect your phone number and only give it out to entities you trust, treating it like a credit card or Social Security number.
With scams evolving as quickly as new technologies emerge, it’s important to protect your personal identity. If you do not recognize a number calling, don’t pick-up and let it go to voicemail. If it’s an important call, they’ll leave a message. If you do accidentally answer the phone and you suspect fraud, hang-up immediately and do not provide the scammer with any information. You may report any suspicious calls to the Federal Trade Commission online by visiting their site here.
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