Chances are you have been on the receiving end of one of the one billion scam phone calls made in the United States last year. Phone security company Pindrop Security, made that estimate in its annual State of Phone Fraud report.
According to Pindrop, one in every 2,200 phone calls is a fraudulent call, up 30% from 2013. This means that you are being targeted on an almost daily basis from scammers that want to steal your money and personal information. The phone calls are being made from all over the globe and even on our own soil!
These phone assailants don't just target consumers at home; they also contact huge firms and retailers. Stores that sell high-end expensive merchandise are the most common target. There has even been a recent spike in scammers posing as police officers demanding money to bail family or friends out of jail. And the scary part is that phone thieves can easily change the number that appears on your caller ID. Don't fall for these sneaky tactics and trust your instincts. When something seems off, hang up immediately.
Austin Police Department's Commander of the intelligence division, Joseph Chacon, told NPR that this is something that has been plaguing his department. "We have people that are calling using 'spoof' numbers that are very similar or identical to numbers that we use, that we call from," Commander Chacon said.
This abuse of police phone numbers can affect law enforcement's ability to do its job. When citizens don't trust that a call is from legitimate officers, they may not cooperate, making it harder for police to work in their communities. Mistrust of police is high in the nation and these phone scammers can make the situation even worse.
Chacon explained his frustration, "You know, when you're really truly trying to make phone calls to have somebody come bond somebody out, and they say, 'Well, I don't believe you are who say you are,' and you have to give them your number, and then they have to call you back and, you know, it dilutes people's trust or belief in who they're really speaking with."
Luckily, I have an easy solution for you to weed out the people that are just calling to steal your hard-earned dollars. There is an app you can download on your smartphone that pulls up the name of every unknown caller and alerts you to how many people have reported that specific number as a fraudulent phone call. TrueCaller makes it easy to know who to ignore and who to pick up.
Let me know if you receive one of these sketchy phone calls by telling me you story in the comments section below.