“We’ve been trying to reach you about your auto-warranty.” OMG! I didn’t even realize my auto warranty was expiring!
The sheer number of spam and scam phone calls, texts, and emails coming in these days is staggering. Most are robocalls, but this morning, I got a live person who said she was calling from the department of Visa and Mastercard. When I said I didn’t know there actually was a department of Visa and Mastercard, she stopped talking-momentarily. But then she was right back in the game with how it’s understandable that I am buried in credit card debt due to the pandemic. She must not have heard me when I said I didn’t have any credit card debt because next, she was strongly suggesting that I be transferred to their credit repair department.
I don’t know about anyone else, but it seems these calls have become epidemic. Phone scams have been around for as long as landlines. Now that we all have our smartphones with us, there are even more opportunities for the perps.
My question is if phone scamming is illegal, and it is, what isn’t it prosecutable? It is, but it’s not that simple, or at least, so it would seem. On the FCC’s website is a proclamation that they are pushing “to combat robocalls and spoofing.”
“We’re not going to stop until we get robocallers, spoofers, and scammers off the line.” – FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel
The FCC estimates that consumers receive over 4 billion robocalls per month and that we get scammed out of 9.5 billion dollars per year. They also state that 46% of Americans receive at least one spam call per day. I think they need to update their information. I’m a Realtor, so I get that my phone number is fairly public, but that number seems pretty low when I know I get 2-3 of these calls/texts per day. Sometimes if I get someone to live, I like to have a little fun, but mostly I think about that 9.5 billion dollar number.
My mother was always pretty independent, but she had COPD, and that, along with normal aging, compromised her thought processes and memory in her later years. I remember receiving a distress phone call from her because she was pretty sure she had just given her credit card information to a scammer. It took little work to investigate, but fortunately, her antennas were up because we got the charges reversed immediately.
But clearly, that is not always the case.
I have a friend whose aging mother was living with her because her only source of income was her small monthly social security payment. What my friend didn’t know was that a telephone solicitor had scammed her mom into having almost her entire monthly stipend taken from her bank account each month for the “Canadian Lottery.”
Somehow it seems as though it shouldn’t be so difficult for the FCC to put a stop to this criminal activity but apparently, it isn’t that simple. For every zing there is apparently a zang. The name the FCC gives to scammers who disguise their identity to entice people is “Spoofers.” Spoofing is when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity. Scammers often use neighbor spoofing so it appears that an incoming call is coming from a local number, or spoof a number from a company or a government agency that you may already know and trust. If you answer, they use scam scripts to try to steal your money or valuable personal information, which can be used in fraudulent activity.
You may not be able to tell right away if an incoming call is spoofed. Be extremely careful about responding to any request for personal identifying information. Below are some tips from the FCC for ways to keep yourself and your loved ones as safe as possible.
Remember to periodically check your voicemail to make sure you aren’t missing important calls and clear out any spam calls that might fill your voicemail box.
But there are also those annoying text messages and emails. You know, the ones that will say I’ve won a gift or my Amazon account has been closed due to fraudulent activity. All I need to do is click the link to accept the gift or to connect with Amazon the safeguard my account. One, in particular, that is pretty tricky, and I’ve gotten via email and text. Paypal. It’s problematic in part because, like Amazon, we use Paypal. But even more so is how close they are to the actual Paypal logo.
For us as realtors, these things are a double whammy. Our phones and our email are the lifelines of our business. We HAVE to answer our phones no matter how suspicious the number seems to be. And, at the same time, though Rebecca and I never cold-call anyone, we respond by phone to any requests made on our website for information. It’s much easier to respond to questions via phone, and it is also easier to build a rapport with a potential client who, on the other side is trying to determine if we can help them. We are all wary these days, and understandably so.