In the span of three hours, one of our staffers here in the newsroom at Komando.com got eight persistent robocalls, all telling her that she was in big trouble. Her Social Security account had been locked.
Scroll down to hear one of the threatening voice mail messages left on her phone.
What was interesting about these calls was not only how persistent they were, but that they got past Verizon and her robocall-blocking app, and none of the phone numbers showed up on consumer sites where you can do reverse lookup phone numbers (ShouldIAnswer, 800notes, or WhoCallsMe).
This is a common robocall nightmare. Even though the government is stepping in to help, we'll never be free from robocalls. And that's what we want you to know: No matter what the government does, no matter what your carriers do, these bad guys will find ways to outsmart them, which means we need to be vigilant so we don't fall for scams.
Why are robocallers pretending to be the Social Security Administration?
Robocallers pretending to be something they're not is nothing new, but spam callers have recently taken unprecedented steps to deceive Americans into giving up private information.
In a popular new scheme, robocallers are pretending to be the Social Security Administration. In the call's script, they inform the potential victim that their Social Security number has been compromised, and speaking with an "agent" is their best opportunity to fix the problem.
This is an especially dangerous tactic for scammers to use. People care deeply about their credit history as it is, and identity theft is rampant enough to easily provoke concern (or misplaced trust, in the case of this call). Worse yet, the spammers are now able to spoof the real SSA's number on occasion, making it difficult to ID the caller as a fake.
What should I be looking out for?
To fight back against this new threat, we're giving you a heads up on what to spot if you receive one of these scary calls. Listen to a call that one of our staffers here at Komando.com received this week. We've left grammatical errors intact for accuracy:
"This call is from the Department of Social Security Administration. The reason you have received this phone call from our department is to inform you that we just suspend your Social Security Number because we found some suspicious activity so if you want to know about this case just press one thank you."
Upon listening, you'll notice a couple of obvious red flags. For starters, the voice on the line isn't even a real person -- it's a text-to-speech engine.
You can always catch these fake voices by paying attention to their oddly clipped pronunciation and awkward pauses. They'll often mispronounce commonly used English words, as well. You can also see awkward grammar and syntax in the script the caller uses, which can potentially be a sign that the call isn't domestic.
Most importantly, the "agent" calling does not identify themselves or name the recipient of the call in their message -- making the whole thing appear like a boilerplate message.
If you receive an SSA scam robocall, your recording may not be identical to this one, but they tend to contain similar elements that make them easy to spot. As with the recording, the calls don't always use the same number, and will often switch between a spoofed official SSA number and several randomly generated ones.
These numbers don't always turn up results when you Google them, so we're including some of the ones we've received to help you identify any potentially threatening calls:
Knowing the enemy is critical to defeating them. Now that you're armed with this knowledge, you'll be able to spot and avoid these robocalls before they get your number on a list and harass you more.
Alternatively, if you want to block robocalls from your phone using software solutions, we've got our own impressions of the powerful new Firewall app for iPhone.
Hopefully, the robocall trend will die down as more people catch on to these scammers' tricks. But that's not likely to happen. For now, dealing with this menace is a marathon -- not a sprint.
Sick of spoofed robocalls? The FCC is ready to take the fight overseas
Spoofing is becoming the weapon of choice for illegal robocallers. Now, the FCC is proposing changes that will help them go after international organizations that target Americans. We'll explain how the new proposals would work and what to do to reduce the number of robocalls you get.