Have you been scammed over the phone? Maybe you thought you were talking to an actual government official so provided your personal information or perhaps you paid money thinking that the person calling you was legitimate. You’re probably dumbfounded right now because you can’t even imagine that you fell victim to the phone scam. Believe it or not, you’re not alone in this.
There is a common misconception that only older people or those who are not well-educated fall for phone scams. In reality, however, millions of Americans become victims of phone scams year after year. According to the 2020 Truecaller Insights – US Spam & Scam Report, as many as 56 million Americans reported that they lost money as a result of phone scams which resulted in over $19.7 billion US dollars lost.
In this article, we will talk about what you need to do after being scammed over the phone. We will also discuss the different types of phone scams so you can recognize whether it was a fraudulent phone call.
Steps to follow if you think you have been scammed over the phone
Many people do not immediately recognize that they have been scammed. Maybe you are not even aware of what could happen if you become a victim of a phone scam. Phone scams are usually conducted to illegally obtain personal information or extract money from unsuspecting victims. Scammers will trick you to send them money or provide them with information so they can access your financial accounts.
In a lot of cases, phone scam victims have already paid money or have given personal information before they realize that the phone call was a sham. If this happened to you, what do you need to do? Can you get your money back?
Below is a step-by-step guide that could help you if you were a victim of a phone scam.
Step 1: Take note of the phone number and other details
The first thing that you need to do is to write down and save the phone number of the person who gave you a call. You also need to take down details like the time the call took place, the duration of the call, and details of the conversation.
Remember to include info that the scammer might have given you like if the scammer gave you bank details, email addresses, or other phone numbers. Having these pieces of information ready will make it easier and faster for you when you report the phone scam to the authorities.
Step 2: Report the phone scam to the Federal Trade Commission
In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the main agency that is responsible for collecting scam reports. You can go to the FTC complaint webpage: ftc.gov/complaint to report the phone scam if you lost money, gave personal information, or if you have information about the scammer. If you don’t have internet access, you can report the phone scam by calling 1-877-382-4357.
For example, if you were duped to send money by a bank transfer to a scammer, you can send your complaint to the FTC to report the scammer.
If you did not lose money or were not compromised, but you are suspicious of a caller, you can report the number to donotcall.gov. The FTC and law enforcement authorities will use the information that you provided to identify phone scammers and block these numbers.
If you suspect a scammer has your personal information, you can set up identity theft protection with Aura. They perform SSN monitoring, scan and monitor your essential financial reports for suspicious activity, and they’ll help you recover from any identity theft.
In case you’ve already given out your personal info, they’ll help you:
- Conduct 24/7 SSN Monitoring
- Monitor the dark web for people selling your personal information, and alerting you if anything appears.
- Monitor your credit reports (fraud usually shows up on your credit reports and ruins your credit)
- A personal case manager that can help you recover from any identity theft problems.
You’ll also get a $1M insurance policy and stolen funds reimbursement. This means that your financial situation will remain SAFE EVEN IF fraudsters have your personal information (they won’t be able to get away with it).
Step 3: Try to recover the money you have paid by informing your financial institution ASAP
One of the most traumatic things that could happen to you when scammed over the phone is when a fraudster was able to convince you to pay money or give them info that they can use to steal your money. In these instances, you might be wondering if you can get your money back. Whether you can get your money back depends on how you sent the money or how the scammers were able to extract money from you.
In a lot of cases, scammers will ask you to pay them money through a method that cannot be recovered easily such as a bank transfer, gift card, or prepaid card. If you paid through these means, it will usually be very difficult to get your money back, especially if the scammer already accessed and spent the money. However, you can still attempt to recover the money ASAP by calling your bank, financial institution, or company.
If you sent money to a scammer via a bank transfer, the bank may be able to reverse the action if the request has not been processed yet or received by the receiving bank. A bank transfer reversal is rare but could be possible if you immediately report the scam.
If the transfer already went through, the receiving bank and the recipient must agree to return the money. Since a scammer will obviously not agree to return the money, this makes the reversal impossible.
If you made a remittance transfer, you usually have 30 minutes to cancel the transaction as long as the recipient has not picked up the money yet. Remittance transfers are usually done via Western Union, MoneyGram, or can also be performed by your bank.
Gift Card or Prepaid Card
If you paid a scammer using a prepaid card or gift card, try calling the company who issued the card to report the scam. Some providers may be able to get your money back as long as it has not been spent yet. Below are links on how to report gift card scams to providers often used by scammers.
- Report Amazon gift card scam here
- Report Google Play gift card scam here
- Report Itunes gift card scams here
- Report Steam gift card scams here
- Report MoneyPak card scam here
Gift Card or Prepaid Card
In most cases, paying through credit card or debit card can be reversed as long as you report it immediately. Most banks will be able to reverse a fraudulent credit card transaction.
Money Transfer Apps
With money transfer apps like Venmo or PayPal, you can try to report the scam by going to their support pages. If your app is linked to your bank account or credit card, it is best to call your bank or credit card company as well to inform them of the scam. There is no guarantee, however, that you can recover money sent through a money transfer app
Step 4: Change your passwords immediately
If you provided your personal information to the scammer or provided remote access to your computer, it is important to immediately secure your online accounts like your emails, online banking information, and social media profiles. When scammers get access to emails, in particular, they can use this to hack your other online accounts.
Change your username, passwords, and security questions as soon as possible. If the scammer gained remote access to your computer, do not do the changes on the same computer. Instead, use a different computer to make sure that the scammer is not secretly monitoring the changes that you are making. You can also activate multi-factor authentication in your online accounts if possible. You can check with your specific account’s HELP page to see how to go about this process or call Customer Service.
Step 5: Report potential identity theft
If you believe that the phone scam has resulted in your identity being stolen or if you gave out your Social Security Number, you can report this to identitytheft.gov. This is the online portal set up by the United States government where victims can find the step-by-step process they need to follow when reporting identity fraud.
Types of Phone Scams
How do you even know if you’ve been scammed? The first course of action is to check your bank, credit card, and other financial statements to look for suspicious activity or charges you are not familiar with. You can also monitor your credit report by requesting a free copy from annualcreditreport.com to see whether there are inaccurate transactions.
Another effective way is to look for signs whether the phone call you just received sounded like a scam. If you’re not 100% sure whether it was a phone scam or not, familiarizing yourself with the most common types of phone scams used by scammers will clue you in.
Below are some of the most common types of phone scams in the United States.
1. You won a prize scam
The scammer will tell you that you won a raffle, lottery, or free vacation but you need to pay a small fee to claim your prize. Most victims become excited with the prize so they pay this amount only to realize later on it’s a scam.
2. Bank verification scam
The scammer will pretend that they are an employee of your bank, credit card company, or money transfer app like PayPal. They will ask you for your personal information like your password, answers to your security questions, or they may even trick you to enter a verification code that will give them access to your accounts.
3. Free Trial Scam
Scammers will offer you a free product sample but you will need to provide your personal information, credit card details, or pay a shipping fee. You are then duped when you realize that these products are not actually free or when you don’t receive the product at all.
4. Credit Repair Scams
If you are suffering from debt, you might think that it’s good news to have a company solve all your problems by offering to repair your credit. Many fraudulent companies will only charge you money but will not actually perform the service.
5. Fake government official scam
You will be led to believe that the caller is a government official. This fake official will scare you that you have been a victim of identity theft or you’re being investigated for a federal crime. You will then be asked to “verify” details so you will unsuspectingly supply private information to a stranger.
6. Covid-19 scams
The pandemic has led to a new breed of phone scams with 44% of Americans reporting that they have received a scam phone call related to Covid-19 in 2020. According to the FTC, phone scammers usually try to provide free testing kits, offer work from home jobs, pretend to be from Social Security or the World Health Organization, offer debt relief, and many more.
How to avoid being scammed on the phone
With many scammers becoming more sophisticated, no one is really safe from phone scams. However, by being vigilant and following the tips below, you can minimize the risks of being a victim of a phone scam.
- Don’t answer phone calls from unknown numbers.
- If you believe that a phone call is suspicious, hang up immediately.
- When asked by a caller to verify your information, do not provide your personal information immediately. Instead, tell the caller that you are busy and you will call back. Do not call back the phone number that called you, instead call the number listed on the company or agency’s website. You can then confirm whether the call was legitimate or not.
- If someone is pressuring you to take immediate action like pay a fee or send money through wire transfer or gift card, this is usually a sign that it’s a scam.
Avoid falling for scams over the phone by always being protective of your personal details and financial information. It is better to be extra safe than sorry when it comes to such matters.