A recent survey done by Harris Poll on behalf of Truecaller, a company that provides phone security services concludes that during the last twelve months approximately 56 million Americans were victims of various phone scams at a cost of almost 20 billion dollars.  Phone scams come in a variety of forms including phony charity solicitations, fake calls that appear to come from governmental agencies such as the IRS or the Social Security Administration, credit repair scams, extended car warranty scams, phony lottery scams, free vacation scams and more, but they all have one thing in common. They can easily steal your money if you are not careful.

Often the person calling you may have an Indian accent, but that does not necessarily mean that the call is a scam.  For about twenty years, American companies have been outsourcing their telephone customer support to India which has both the technology and an educated English speaking work force to efficiently manage massive phone calls.  Unfortunately, those skills have also made India the hub for illegal phone scams and despite the efforts of Indian and American law enforcement, fraudulent call centers are common in India.

The first defense against phone scammers is skepticism.  You can never be sure when you receive a phone call or a text message as to who is really contacting you.  Even if you have Caller ID, scammers can use a technique called spoofing to make the call appear to be originating from a legitimate source.  Never provide personal information such as your Social Security number or credit card information to anyone who calls you or text messages you without absolutely confirming the legitimacy of the call or text message.

Phony calls from the IRS are easy to spot because the real IRS will not initiate contact with you by a phone call.  Anyone calling you about your taxes purporting to be from the IRS is a scammer.  Hang up.  Another good indication of a scam call is when the caller asks you to pay by a gift card, wiring money, prepaid debit cards or money transfer apps such as Venmo.  These forms of payments are favorites of scammers because they are impossible to get back.

As for calls from telemarketers, not all telemarketers are criminals, but unfortunately, you have no way of knowing when you receive a call whether or not the person on the other end of the conversation is indeed legitimate or not so you should never provide personal information or payment in response to a telephone call until you have independently verified the call.  You may even wish to put yourself on the federal Do Not Call list to avoid telemarketers.  If you do get a call from a telemarketer after you have put yourself on the list, you know that the person is not legitimate and you should ignore the call.  Here is a link to the Do Not Call list if you wish to enroll.  https://www.donotcall.gov/  You can still receive calls from charities even if you are on the Do Not Call List, but again, you cannot be sure that the person calling is really from the charity so never give money over the phone to a telemarketer who calls you on behalf of a charity.  It is also worth noting that when you do make a charitable donation to a legitimate charity telemarketer, the telemarketer takes a percentage of your contribution as a commission.  If you want your donation to do the most good, you should contact the charity directly to make your donation.

For those of you receiving the Scam of the day through an email, I just want to remind you that if you want to see the ever increasing list of Coronavirus scams go to the first page of the http://www.scamicide.com website and click on the tab at the top of the page that indicates “Coronavirus Scams.”  Scamicide has been cited by the New York Times as one of three top sources for information about Coronavirus related scams.

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