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Common phone scammer phrases
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Security & privacy

5 surefire phrases that you’re talking to a scammer on the phone

It can be challenging to determine if that text message, email, or video is legitimate or just another scam. There are usually telltale signs, like spelling errors, that give away the scammer’s intentions. But it’s not so easy when you speak to someone over the phone.

Unlike electronic communication, humans can quickly adapt to any situation, changing their story or deflecting questions. No matter how crafty the crook is, there will always be certain words or phrases they say to tip you off that it’s a scam.

Read on for five things to listen out for if you suspect the caller might be a scammer.

Here’s the backstory

There are numerous variations in the scammer’s playbook, but many use similar language, wording or phrases to trick you and rip you off. But, according to AARP, it’s easy to separate fact from fiction if you listen for five key things. Here are common phrases phone scammers use:

  • We need your Medicare number

One of the most common scams is asking for your medical insurance number. You might receive a phone call from a fake laboratory, clinic or doctor’s office, with the caller claiming they need to do further tests. They’ll need your Medicare number to process the order.

As soon as you hear that, hang up. AARP points out that this scam bills Medicare for unnecessary tests, many of which it doesn’t cover.

  • We can help with a refund

A regular claim from scammers, they offer to help you get a refund from a recent unauthorized Amazon purchase. Obviously, no such transaction took place, and your Amazon account is still secure.

The caller will ask for your banking details or other personal information, and giving it can put you at risk of fraud and identity theft. Hang up the phone and contact Amazon directly if you think you have business with the company.

  • Your electricity will be shut off by the end of the day

Nobody wants to get a phone call about shutting off their utilities, and scammers know the panic it can cause. In this scam, the caller will claim to be from the local electricity or water company and claims your account is past due. You can prevent this by paying the outstanding balance immediately.

AARP explains that utility companies send an email first, and scammers use robocalls for this scam. So end the call and phone your utility provider through its official number to find out the true status of your account.

There’s always a tech angle

Some scammers use confusing terms to bully into a conversation or your bank account. They know that there is a good chance senior citizens will act without asking questions, especially when it involves technology they know little about. Here are more signs you’re talking to a phone scammer:

  • We need you to download this to your phone

Usually aimed at the elderly, a scammer pretends to be from a well-known tech company. While the reason they claim to be calling varies, it usually involves claims that your device is infected with malware and they can help remove it. Hang up the phone immediately!

Legitimate tech companies will never call you out of nowhere, claiming to know your device is infected with malware. The scammer instructs the victim to download a particular app, but it’s nothing more than malware or an application to take complete control of your device.

  • Your Social Security check has been frozen

In this scam, a robocaller will claim that there is a freeze on your Social Security check, and you must pay to prove your identity.

This will never happen, as no federal or state government official will ask for payment or further personal details over the phone unsolicited. Hang up the phone immediately and report the call through the Office of the Inspector General’s fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271.

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