Criminals come up with some pretty sneaky ways to rip us off. You'd think eventually they would run out of ideas. Unfortunately, that doesn't appear to be the case.
There's no sign of them letting up anytime soon. Many times, crafty crooks will take a version of an old scam and tweak it just enough to make it seem new.
That's actually happening right now. A new twist on an old school phone scam is tricking people all across the country and costing victims tons of money.
Costco impersonators searching for victims
A California police department put out a scam alert this week. It's warning everyone that criminals are calling people and pretending to be representatives from big box retailer Costco.
What's happening is that the caller offers you a $500 Costco Travel Credit or Costco Cash Card for just taking a brief survey. During the survey, you're asked for a bunch of personal information.
The problem is that they aren't actual Costco representatives. It's a scam.
If you fall for it and give out your information, the scammers use it to commit identity theft. And it's not just going around California, it's all across the U.S. The thieves are thought to be based in California, but are using spoofing technology that makes the incoming call look like it's from your city, no matter where you live in the country.
How to outsmart phone scammers
The first thing to do if you receive a scam phone call is report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This will help shut down any ongoing phone scams. You can call the FTC to report it at 1-877-382-4357. Keep reading for more ways to protect yourself.
This is actually the easiest solution to eliminating scam phone calls. If you receive a call from an unknown number or one that doesn't show up on caller ID, don't answer. If it's an important call, the person will leave a message and you can get back to them.
Block unknown callers
Many phone companies allow you to block calls that don't show a number on caller ID. Check with your provider to find out how to turn this feature on.
Note: if someone you actually know calls you and blocks their outgoing number, their call won't make it through if you've turned this feature on.
If you answer the phone and the caller (often a recording) asks you to hit a button to stop receiving calls, just hang up. Scammers often use these tricks to identify and target live respondents. Once they know the number is active, you will receive more calls in the future.
Get call blocking apps
You can also download and install call blocking apps such as NomoRobo, True Caller or Hiya on your smartphone. Click here for more information about these types of apps.
Many phone scams begin with a robocall. Criminals use this technique to find new victims all the time.
Listen to Kim's free podcast on ways to outsmart robocallers
You’ve heard them -- the annoying robotic calls that try to scam you with free vacations or false threats from the IRS. In fact, it is estimated that scammers make 2.5 billion robocalls in one month alone. This poses a very real risk to consumers as it gets harder to identify and avoid malicious automated calls. In this Komando on Demand podcast, you'll learn how to protect yourself and your family from falling victim to these tricky and downright dangerous phone calls.
Test your firewall to make sure it’s working
Your firewall is an essential tool that keeps hackers from seeing your computer online. Even if they know your computer's location and IP address, the firewall keeps them from accessing your network. But many don't know if they have a firewall or not, or if it's actually working. Here's a quick way to test your network to make sure you're protected.
Is your private Wi-Fi safely guarded by a firewall? Tap or click here and I'll show you how to check.