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The holiday season, with all of its shopping specials, is often seen as a time when scams are on the rise. Scammers love to take advantage of consumers’ willingness to spend money, and this year they have even more opportunities to do so.
With the current Covid crisis and global supply chain issues causing product shortages, these scammers have a lot to their advantage.
“Scammers are very sophisticated social engineers and will use relevant context to pull the chords of the responding party,” says Clayton LiaBraaten, senior strategic advisor at Real caller, a caller ID and spam blocker app.
Scams that are currently gaining traction, Truecaller said, include those involving charitable donations and holiday scams, both of which relate to how consumers can spend money this year. “During the holiday season, consumer attitudes range from exceptionally generous to very vulnerable during the stress of planning vacations, travel and social gatherings,” said LiaBraaten.
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In addition to fraudulent robocalls, spam text messages are on the increase this year. Consumers receive text messages that resemble a UPS package tracking alert or customer service request.
According to Truecaller US Spam & Scams 2021 Report, the average number of SMS a person receives per month is 16.9, compared to 14.7 in 2020, 10.6 in 2019 and 8.5 in 2018. And last year alone, nearly 60 million Americans (23%), a record, lost money because of phone scams. Each scam resulted in an average loss of $ 500, totaling around $ 30 billion in total.
Scammers disguise themselves as all types of entities, including customer service staff, department stores, large corporations like Apple or Amazon, or major phone carriers like T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T. Consumers should be on the lookout because a scam can come from any region.
First of all, always think twice before taking a call or replying to an SMS from an unidentified number or unknown area code.
For phone calls, check if the caller left a voicemail message. It can help you respond quickly if someone you know is calling you. Either way, you’ll want to confirm that the number belongs to a legitimate business or person, suggests LiaBraaten. You can confirm the number using the TrueCaller website or on the website of the associated company.
If there are questionable customer service texts or texts with package shipping trackers, do not click on the embedded links. LiaBraaten recommends that consumers take a screenshot for reporting purposes and forward a copy of the message to phone number 7726. “You should then report it to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov,” adds he does.
And if you think you’ve been scammed, you can get help by contacting the Consumer Protection Bureau. Just make sure you don’t delete your call log or spam text as you might need it as proof.
You don’t have to wait for something bad to happen to protect yourself from phone fraud in general.
Below are tips, including some from LiaBraaten, to proactively avoid texting and phone scams this holiday season:
- Contact your operator about their tools to limit spam: All telephone operators should have implemented SHAKE / SALARY, which is a framework of protocols and procedures that the FCC created to combat robocalls and scams.
- Subscribe to The FTC’s Do Not Call List: This is where you can report unwanted calls and opt out of receiving telemarketing calls.
- Be careful: Download free caller ID and spam blocker apps like Real caller Where Whoscall, both available on Apple and Android devices. With an app, you can identify incoming calls and texts with names, companies or spam indicators.
- To consider credit monitoring and identity theft protection services: Receive alerts of potential fraud on your credit report, such as new accounts opened in your name, as well as a dark web scan to look for signs of misuse of your personal information. Services like IdentityForce®, PrivacyGuard ™ and Experian IdentityWorks℠ offer everything from three bureaus credit monitoring to dark web monitoring and identity assurance.
- Know that not all robocalls are fraudulent: Caller ID and spam blocker apps can protect you from scammers, but they also ensure that legitimate calls and messages go through. These can include posts from healthcare providers, pharmacies, school districts, travel, hospitality and financial services, notes LiaBraaten.
At the end of the line
While it is certainly easy to get carried away by the excitement of the holidays, it is important to be aware of the unknown calls and texts that are on the increase. With the tips above, you can avoid putting your personal information at risk during the holiday season.
Editorial note: Any opinions, analysis, criticism or recommendations expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the editorial staff of Select and have not been reviewed, endorsed or otherwise approved by any third party.