Ask the Geek: Scammers

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Dear Geek,

I seem to be getting even more scam phone calls and email lately. I know you’ve written about this subject before, but I think it would be helpful to remind people of scam techniques and how to protect ourselves against them.

 

Thanks,

#tired of scammers

 

Dear #tired of scammers,

Thanks for writing in, and I agree, there’s definitely been an increased amount of scammers calling my phone and emailing me. I think the call volume is increased during tax season; seems like it’s their busy season. These types of emails usually end up in the spam folder, so those are less of a concern, but the number of solicitor and scam phone calls that come into my cell phone on a daily basis is alarming.

Before mentioning any apps for cell phones that can help identify suspicious phone calls, let’s hit the common-sense piece of things. Is the IRS likely to have a robotic voice call to threaten about back taxes? No. Is it likely that I could have potentially won vacation after vacation, week after week? Unfortunately, again the answer is no. Is it possible to get a phone call from someone on behalf of a family member needing a credit card or wire transfer due to their wallet being stolen? Possible, but highly unlikely.

Reading these scenarios in the paper or on your screen likely makes them seem absurd. Hearing these play out with your own ears on the phone, though, that hits our senses differently. I have gotten the scam call “from the IRS” a few times, and it did give me pause the first time. I thought, wait, I know I paid my taxes, so this can’t be true, but what if I missed something? As the recorded message played, I knew it was fake, but questioned myself for a second before smartening up and ending the call. Seeing a 508-693-xxxx phone number on caller ID makes a call believable and potentially legit, but scammers change their caller ID number to local numbers all the time. A local number on the caller ID can raise doubt in our minds, though, as to whether or not it’s a scam. Same with hearing someone who sounds friendly on the other end of the phone saying, “Oh, I’m sorry for the delay when you said hello, I was helping my child get something.” It hits us in a soft spot, until they follow that up with “CONGRATULATIONS! You have been selected …”

Recognizing these tricks is much of the battle, as once our common sense takes over, we usually say something in frustration and hang up. No matter what, don’t give out your personal or financial information over the phone unless you are 100 percent certain of who you are speaking with, and that they actually need it.

There are apps (for both iPhones and Android) that help identify these types of calls, and though nothing will be 100 percent accurate, they are a big help. Truecaller and Hiya are two apps I read about often;I have personally used Truecaller in the past, and have been testing Hiya for a few days to get a feel for it, and I’m confident in both apps. These apps look at massive databases of phone numbers, and will display something on your screen identifying a suspicious phone call, and even automatically block them. I would recommend trying either Truecaller or Hiya to help reduce the number of spam phone calls; use whichever of the two apps you prefer. Every app has its own look and feel, and though they can both function similarly, personal preference should still come into play.

For home phone service (and any carrier cell service for $1.99 a month) you can use a service called nomorobo.com. Going to that website, you can enter your phone number, carrier, and once you complete their online form, their system will start protecting you from these unwanted calls.

Besides the services I mentioned, please beware that two of your senses, seeing and hearing, can cause you to let your guard down with these scammers’ calls. The most important sense in protecting yourself is common sense. That, in addition to the services in this article, should end up protecting you from the hazards these calls can cause.

 

Thanks again for writing in,

The Geek

 

Adam Darack is the IT administrator for the town of Edgartown. He writes regularly about the technological issues facing Island business owners. Got a question? Send it to onisland@mvtimes.com with the subject line “Dear Geek.”

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1 COMMENT

  1. Thanks for posting this question and answer. Almost everyday I can find reports and complaints regarding phone scam at sites like http://whycall.me and another similar sites. We need to keep informing our family and colleagues about these scammers.

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