With smartphones and people constantly communicating across the globe, unexpected calls are becoming a source of frustration for many. While some calls may be harmless, others may be phone scams or solicitations.
Therefore, it’s critical to be aware which phone numbers pose a particular threat. This is even more essential when you’re concerned about the well-being of elderly family members or your children who are more at risk for common phone scams.
To help you avoid the hassle of suspicious communications, we’ll examine the phone calls you should never answer, or at least be especially alert to, as well as why there’s been an increase in phone scams in recent years.
What’s Behind the Increase in Scam Numbers?
Many people report that calls from unknown numbers interfere significantly with their daily lives and often cause further damage if the phone scam is successful. The fact is that unsolicited or spam calls have increased recently for several reasons. These are described in more detail below:
Advancements in Technology
Although technology is wonderful, there are drawbacks as well. Technological developments have made it simpler for telemarketers and phone scammers to generate and automate a high volume of phone calls.
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) Services: With the introduction of affordable VoIP services, both individuals and companies are increasingly using cheap internet calls. VoIP converts voice messages into a digital signal that can be transmitted over the internet.
Unfortunately, scammers are among those who leverage this technology. They can now change their phone numbers and locations to evade detection, which in turn has led to an increase in call traffic.
Robocalling: Another tactic that has gained popularity is robocalling, a low-cost yet effective way to reach many people at one time. The technology represents pre-recorded messages delivered via auto-dialing software. The good news is that robocall blocking capabilities make it easy to prevent this kind of call.
Spoofing: These are possibly the most misleading because they look like they’re coming from a local number. By using ID spoofing, scammers can pretend that a call is coming from a reputable local area code even when the caller may be hundreds of miles away. For many people, these are also some of the hardest to avoid, especially when you’re worried about a loved one or waiting for information via a call. In such a situation, the last thing you want to do is miss the call.
Data Breach: Apart from the previously mentioned problems, the frequency of large-scale data breaches has increased, revealing personal information, including phone numbers. Sadly, this information is often sold and used to target certain individuals with a phone scam.
Since money is a common denominator in phone scams, one should always exercise caution when it comes to sharing personal and financial information over the phone. Scam callers may attempt to deceive people by posing as representatives of the government, their bank, or even someone asking about a loved one, all while using an unknown number. Once the victim falls for the bait, the con artists put even more pressure, making it hard for the victim to say no.
Government organizations like the Federal Trade Commission and mobile or landline providers find it challenging to keep up with the rapidly evolving landscape of telecom fraud. With the digital world turned smaller thanks to technology, scam calls could be coming from anywhere around the globe. Obviously, this makes it even more challenging to trace and block them effectively.
How Phone Scams Can Be Stopped
Telecom, regulators, and law enforcement companies should collaborate in their efforts to combat scammers. More public awareness, more stringent laws, and better technology can all help to create a more secure telecom environment and lessen the negative effects that scam calls have on people’s lives.
While they do their part, there are things you can do on your end as well. Learning more about fraudulent schemes and the resources at your disposal is the first step.
Verifying Phone Calls
Unknown scam phone calls can take many different forms, such as one-ring scam efforts, fake tech support or bank calls, package delivery scams, telemarketing, and more. It’s important to have a plan in place for handling these attempts because they can be dangerous and invasive.
Caller Identification: Examining the caller ID is one of the first means to confirm unknown numbers. The Caller ID option lets the recipient see the caller’s number (their name and location, if available) on the phone before the call is taken. Even though this data is easily spoofable to provide a local area code, it’s still a useful place to start.
Reverse Phone Number Lookup: You can get more information about the caller by using online reverse phone lookup on advanced platforms such as Nuwber. Nuwber’s reverse phone search gives you immediate access to its large database of US phone numbers. It can tell you a lot about the caller, including which area the number belongs to, so you can feel more at ease knowing that you and your loved ones are less likely to fall for potentially dangerous phone scammers.
Verifying Any Official Communications: As a rule, authentic establishments communicate via official channels. If a call seems official but makes you uneasy, hang up and do your own verification. This gives you the chance to check the caller’s contact details using reliable sources — official websites, customer care lines, or your carrier.
Which Area Codes You Should Never Answer
The tips listed above are great to follow, but it’s also good to know what area codes are commonly linked to scam calls. Familiarising yourself with them will decrease your risk of becoming a victim.
First, although this might not be 100% reliable, don’t answer calls that come from foreign numbers, such as the British Virgin Islands, unless, of course, you’re expecting them. Foreign numbers are easy to identify thanks to their formatting.
For instance, a phone call from the British Virgin Islands will have a (284) area code while a call from Grenada, Carriacou, or Petite will have the area code of (473). You should leave both to go directly to voicemail.
Another area code to avoid is (649), which is the Turks and Caicos Islands.
You also need to know what domestic area codes to avoid, as not all scam calls come from overseas. The following are five areas that have been targeted for phone scams, as stated by GoBankingRates, meaning you should avoid calls coming from these areas unless you’re certain who the caller is.
- (216) Cleveland, Ohio
- (218) Northern Minnesota
- (469) Dallas, Texas
- (657) La Palma, California
- (712) Western Iowa
In addition to these five area codes, the (332), (347), and (646) area codes in the New York City region have also been associated with spam and fraud.
In many ways, answering scam phone numbers can be harmful. Con artists trick people to convince them to transfer money or lure them with financial benefits. But if you know how to verify unfamiliar numbers, you can handle them more safely. Maintaining a healthy dose of skepticism and adhering to the above advice will help strengthen your defenses against unsolicited or malicious communication.
Phone Scams FAQ
Why are people so easily fooled by false information and scams?
Fraudsters can be very persuasive by hiding behind reputable agencies and using manipulative techniques, such as threats or inducing a sense of urgency, that prevent the victim from critically assessing the situation.
What is the best way to act if you feel uneasy with a call?
If you receive a call from an unknown number, the best thing is to leave them to go directly to voicemail.
If you do pick up the phone, remember that you’re not obliged to provide your personal information to anyone over the phone. Just hang up and do your research. You can go to the official website of the representative of the organization and contact their office through official channels.
What is the most common phone scam involving foreign numbers?
One of the most common phone scams is a one-ring scam. The aim is to force you to make a return call. Three-digit foreign area codes are similar to those in the US. So, you may think it is a domestic call and call back. However, this will result in an increase in your bill in the premium services section.
What US area codes have been flagged as potentially dangerous?
Some of the US area codes to be mentioned are (347) New York City, (657) La Palma, California, and (712) Western Iowa.