Although we have already entered the digital age, the telephone and websites remain the common weapons of choice for many scammers. According to FTC (Federal Trade Commission), there were over 1.1 million fraudulent complaints in 2019, and the swindlers used calls to have their way in 74% of these cases. Once they manage to get you on the line, telephone scammers utilize aggressive sales pitches, phony threats, and false promises to illegally obtain some information they can use to steal your identity, money, or both.
Whether automated or live, scam callers usually pose as government agencies' representatives or familiar travel, retail, tech, or financial firms, allegedly calling with some important information. These swindlers can also impersonate some charity fundraisers that you are familiar with or even your extended family members, playing on family bonds or your generosity to steal money from you. And just like most of us, these scammers are rapidly going mobile. In this post, we will show you how you can identify scam phone numbers and scam websites, how you can protect yourself from such and how to report them.
How to Identify a Phone Scam
As we mentioned earlier, phone scammers usually try to hook you up with appeals for some charitable causes, enticing offers, or claims of being closely associated with government agencies. In most cases, these swindlers do not give you time to think through their claims or pitch and will always pressure you to make a quick decision. Despite their message or behavior, the goal of a phone scammer is to get you to provide them with some of your personal information or send them money. Here are some common signs of a telephone scam:
Unsolicited calls from some charity fundraisers, particularly after disasters
Automated sale calls from companies you haven't authorized to contact you, which might be illegal robocalls and almost certainly scams
Some call pitching services or products that have terms that are too good to be true. Some common scams offerings typically include free medical devices, cash prizes, pre-approved loans, cheap travel packages, debt reduction, free product trials, and high-return, low-risk investments.
- Claims that you've been specially selected
- Reluctance to answer some questions about the purported offer or business
- Use of threats such as arrests if you do not comply
- Requests that you confirm some of your personal information
- The call begins with prerecorded messages known as robocalls
- Claims to be a relative or friend in need of financial assistance
- Requests to log in to your personal computer or claim your computer has a virus
- Requests payments by other means apart from credit card
Scam Phone Number Lookup
If you are a victim of regular scam calls or are tired of receiving calls from swindlers, you can easily block them on your phone. However, if you want to get to the root of this problem, you should know who they are. You can achieve that by running a scam phone number search.
You can easily and quickly search scam phone numbers online utilizing a scam phone number lookup service such as Kiwi Searches. You will get a lot of information about the phone scammer, including the city they reside in, their names, siblings, criminal history, and phone carrier, among other things. This information will help you know who the scammer is in reality, not who they claim to be. Furthermore, performing a scam phone number search is quite affordable, and it will not create a dent in your wallet.
How to Check Scam Phone Numbers
Here are the steps you need to follow to find out the identity of scam phone numbers.
- Have the scam number you would like to lookup
- Visit your preferred telephone number lookup service
- Enter the phone number in the search box provided
- Relax and wait as the phone number search service searches the number
- View the results of your scam phone number search
Ways to Limit Unwanted Telephone Calls and Protect Yourself From Scammers
Below are several ways you can use to protect yourself from telephone scams.
1. Enrolling in the Federal and State Do-Not-Call Lists
To limit calls from scammers and telemarketers, you can enroll your cell phone and residential telephone numbers with the federal and state do-not-call lists. Both of these lists are free, although they are separate. Ensure to review the policies and terms of each before enrolling in your phone numbers.
However, scam artists and illegitimate companies don't respect do-not-call lists. Consequently, once your enrollment goes through, you need to be cautious of any unwanted telemarketing calls unless you're sure they come from legitimate companies with which you've got an established relationship.
2. Using call blocking services
To block unwanted phone calls on your landline, you can install call-blocking devices over the Internet or directly on your home's phone. Not all services or devices work on all kinds of carriers or home phones, so you'll want to check with your telephone company before making your purchase. Besides, many landlines and wireless carriers provide call-blocking services. Some of them charge a fee for these services, which others offer them for free. You can contact customer service or check the website of your carrier for more information.
You can download third-party call blocking apps to help block unwanted calls on your smartphone. These applications assist in detecting spam calls by utilizing blacklist databases and blocking phone numbers with a high number of complaints. Many mobile phones come with built-in features that can easily block calls from specific numbers or identify suspicious spam calls. You might have to manage the spam list yourself, and the smartphone might have a limit on the number of phone numbers you can block. However, you can use these features instead of or in addition to third-party apps to keep phone scammers at bay.
How to Report Scam and Unwanted Phone Calls
It is essential to report telephone scams to state consumer protection offices or federal agencies. Although these agencies might not investigate individual cases, your report can help them gather evidence for winning lawsuits against the scammers. Here are some ways to report any suspected phone scams.
To report suspected phone scams, you need to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The Federal Trade Commission is the main government agency that has the responsibility of collecting scam complaints.
To report violations of the federal do-not-call list, you should also contact FTC
To report a state's do-not-call list violation, you need to file a complaint with your state's consumer protection office and the Public Utility Commission.
To report spoofing of caller ID, contact the Federal Communications Commission.
To report illegal robocalls, you should contact the Do-Not-Call Registry.
How to Check Scam Websites
The World Wide Web is full of sites that are either fraudulent, fake, or a scam. The evolution of the web has brought numerous incredibly convenient advancements in how we interact with everything around us, shop, and bank. Similarly, the evolution has given way to new risks and new avenues for scam artists to defraud unsuspecting individuals.
Shopping on fake websites can result in your financial or personal information getting stolen or the internet device you are using getting infected with malware or viruses. Knowing how to identify red flags is essential, but it is quite simple once you understand what you should look for. In this section, we will look at tips, tricks, and useful tools for checking the legitimacy of a website.
1. Check the site's address bar
Internet users are advised to give payment information and any other sensitive personal details only to websites that use encryption. In many browsers, the encryption is displayed with a small padlock icon in the site's address bar. HTTPS Everywhere browser extension will make sure that the specific website's encrypted edition is chosen when available. Nevertheless, having an HTTPS encryption doesn't mean that a website is completely safe. The data provided will be encrypted, which prevents the interception of the information, but most fake sites also utilize encryption as their proof of legitimacy.
The small padlock icon shows that the transmission of data can't be intercepted. Still, it doesn't give any information about how the site's owner will utilize the received information, or verify it as being safe. Besides obtaining a security certificate that offers the padlock icon is usually free with many web hosting services, and one can also obtain it for free from third-party security companies.
You should only give sensitive information when a site utilizes the HTTPS protocol, not just HTTP, and has the small padlock icon. However, not all websites using HTTPS protocol are genuine. The padlock is just a prerequisite or a minimum requirement but not a silver bullet when it comes to determining whether a site is a scam or is selling counterfeits. Therefore, you need to check it off your list and then consider other factors as well.
2. Assess the website's domain name
Many people receive emails with brand terms in the email addresses and assume the emails are from the legit brand owners. However, domain names that include brand terms aren't necessarily owned by the respective brands. Scam artists often register their domains with some popular brand terms to aid in their phishing attacks. These are forms of social engineering actions to illegally obtain users' information. Many brands own an array of domain names that they use for live websites, and they hold others defensively to prevent scam artists from registering the domains with illegal motives. However, brand owners can't purchase all conceivable domain names that might confuse the general population. Most often, many confusing registered domains go unnoticed because the domain names can be utilized for emails without an attached website. The other common tactic used by scammers is replacing one letter with a number or another letter that looks almost similar.
You shouldn't directly reply with sensitive information in an email with an attachment or one that asks for personal information. The presumption should be that email is simply a phishing attack. Avoid clicking any links that ask you to enter data or download attachments without being sure of the source of the email. If you are not 100% sure, find a customer support phone number from the brand owners or perform a quick WHOIS lookup on the owner of the domain name.
3. Check out for spelling mistakes and poor grammar
Excessive spelling, capitalization, grammar, and punctuation mistakes indicate that a specific website went up pretty fast. Companies with legit websites might certainly have occasional typing errors but still, put some effort into maintaining a professional website. However, if a website has lots of odd phrases and punctuation, or capitalizes all words, it should ring a bell.
4. Look for reliable customer service options
Traditional customer support meant providing a telephone number that customers can call for any assistance or queries. However, many official online stores do not offer a customer care telephone number. With a live chat feature, this method of differentiating a fake site from a legit has gone. Addons and Plugins exist for most popular online store builders, allowing even the most low-cost scam artists to get live chat functionality.
Web stores selling counterfeits or fake websites did not previously provide customer service options but have come up with an option that looks like live chat, but when trying to use functions as a genuine contact form when emailing the company admin. This method gives people the impression of credibility because many modern sites include a live chat feature. Having a well-functioning live chat option doesn't mean that you can automatically trust the website. The availability of numerous low-cost solutions has allowed counterfeiters and scammers to provide this service as a quick method to generate more sales.
5. Check customer reviews
According to statistics, 70% of internet users check product reviews before buying an item over the Internet. Reviews are intended to verify the seller and product offered. Platforms such as Amazon and eBay rely on their customers to offer feedback to other consumers. However, counterfeit sellers on many eCommerce networks are also aware of that and have a way of providing fake customer reviews.
The best news is that some websites are devoted to helping online customers analyze reviews such as fakespot.com. Fakespot is one of the best sites that helpfully provide an add on or extension for Firefox and Chrome browsers. The site offers a quick summary when you are on supported platforms like Amazon.
Customers on popular eCommerce platforms need to know that counterfeits exist, and so do practices that shield counterfeit activities from getting detected. It would be best if you combined your perception of the integrity of the available reviews with third-party verification of the customer reviews.
6. Look for social media presence
Analyzing the advertised social media platforms of a website is also a good way to evaluate a website. Some sites include a variety of social network icons that do not lead to any accounts. The icons might be share buttons that are used to confuse customers who visit the site, or as decorations to give the site a mask of legitimacy. Social media icons that don't lead directly to live profiles are red flags. However, some scam artists have already adapted to that and normally link directly to some official-looking accounts or official accounts.
Many social media platforms offer a verification layer for official accounts that have a verified tick or icon. If you see any of these, contact the social account directly and ask whether the site linked to the social media account is a legit or official website. Many brands respond fast because they recognize the great power of social network-based customer support.
7. Extravagant offers
The promise of extravagant luxuries beyond your dreams in exchange for minimal effort or a fraction of your time is a common fraudster practice used by many scam artists. Always ask yourself questions if an offer sounds too good to be true.
How To Report Scam Websites
If you happen to come across a scam or fraudulent website, you need to report it as soon as possible. Even if you were not taken in by the scammers, your action might stop other individuals from falling into a similar trap and stop criminals from preying on vulnerable people. Here are some ways to report suspicious or scam websites.
If you lose some money to a scam website, you need to contact the police and notify them that an online crime has occurred. Reporting a scam to the local police station instead of using an emergency contact number will provide as many details as possible into how the online fraud took place.
If you were duped by a scam site posing as a legit business, it might be advisable to contact the firm in question. It might not resolve your issue, but they may issue a timely warning about the fake website.
If you perceive that a certain company has broken any laws or acted unfairly towards you, you can pursue legal action by reporting them to the state's consumer protection office. That could be the best option if you feel that the company sold you fake products or misled you.
If you want to report a scam, it will be beneficial to have enough information as evidence. Keep a complete record of every detail related to the fraud that might have taken place. You can note the names, URL, the dates in relation to the money you lost, and the email addresses of everyone who made contact with you before the purchase.
The number of phishing or fake websites and scam phone numbers is currently on the rise, and scam artists are becoming more sophisticated in swindling consumers into parting with cash and personal information. Phishing websites imitate websites of well-known organizations to illegally collect personal and sensitive information from site visitors, including passwords and user names. Some websites also masquerade as official third-party processing arms of organizations and companies to charge some fees for free services offered on these companies' official websites.
Shopping on fake websites can result in your financial and personal information getting stolen or your gadget becoming infected with malware or a virus. Shopping online can be a harmless and great experience provided you watch out for the red flags discussed above and use common sense and some caution. Instead of feeling quite threatened by all the ways a fake website can fool you, understand that you are empowered to take full control of your online shopping experience by knowing what you should look for.
Knowing how you can identify red flags is crucial but simple when you know what to look for. This article has covered the tricks, tips, and tools you can use to check the legitimacy of a website or phone numbers. There's no single factor highlighted above that can fully determine whether a site sells counterfeits or is fake, or if a received email is just a phishing scam. It would help if you were careful with any phone calls, emails, or websites asking for your payment details or personal identifying information. If the authenticity of the website, email, or phone calls cannot be determined, you can take the vigilant path and look for a more reliable source.