Beware of Holiday Season Phone Scams Targeting Unsuspecting Consumers

Scammers may pretend to be debt collectors, offer holiday deals, or use fear to extort money

Beware of Holiday Season Phone Scams Targeting Unsuspecting Consumers
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December 4, 2017

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is reminding consumers to be on the lookout for scam callers during this holiday season. Illegal robocallers often spoof caller ID information and try to use real events to defraud consumers by tricking them into providing money or personal information.

Fraudulent callers may pretend to be debt collectors, offer holiday deals, or use fear to extort money. Be aware that scammers can use other information-gathering tools and may know more about you beyond your phone number. Do not assume that because they know your name, the name of a company you use, a recent financial transaction, or some other detail, that they are legitimate.

Technology also allows scammers to more easily and cheaply spoof telephone numbers, manipulating the caller ID information so that they appear to be calling from your local area—so-called "neighbor spoofing."

Tips for Avoiding Phone Scams

To avoid becoming a scammer's next victim, always keep the following tips in mind:

  • Don't answer calls from unknown numbers. Let them go to voicemail.
  • If the caller claims to be from a legitimate company or organization, hang up and call them back using a valid number found on their website or on your latest bill if you do business with them.
  • If you answer and the caller (often a recording) asks you to press a button to stop receiving calls, or asks you to say "yes" in response to a question, just hang up. Scammers often use these tricks to identify, and then target, live respondents, or to use your "yes" to apply unauthorized charges on your bill.
  • If you answer and the caller asks for payment using a gift card, it's likely a scam. Legitimate organizations like law enforcement will not ask for payment with a gift card.
  • If you receive a scam call, file a complaint with the FCC Consumer Complaint Center by selecting the "phone" option and selecting "unwanted calls" as your issue. The collective data we receive helps us track trends and supports our enforcement investigations.
  • If you have lost money as a result of a scam call, contact your local law enforcement agency for assistance
  • Ask your phone company if it offers a robocall blocking service. If not, encourage them to offer one. You can also visit the FCC's website for more information about illegal robocalls and resources on available robocall blocking tools to help reduce unwanted calls.
  • Registeryour telephone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry. Lawful telemarketers use this list to avoid calling consumers on the list

Report Suspected Scams

Anyone who believes they have been targeted by a robocall scam should file a complaint with the FCC or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).