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Tuesday 21st May 2024

How to avoid becoming a telephone scam victim

Nick Daws offers tips to prevent phone scams, and how to safeguard yourself and loved ones from potential harm.


As with online scams, which I discussed in this recent article on Mouthy Money, telephone scams have become an unfortunate reality of daily life in the UK. 

Fraudsters often use clever tactics to deceive unsuspecting individuals, leading to financial losses and personal distress. 

In this article I will set out some tips and advice to avoid falling victim to phone scams and protect you – and your loved ones – from potential harm.

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Top tips to beat the scammers

Keep informed

Knowledge is your best defence against telephone scams. Stay informed about the latest scam techniques and common fraud scenarios. 

Regularly check official sources such as Action Fraud and local law enforcement websites for updates on common scams in your area. Local community website NextDoor can also be a good source of information.

In addition, Which? Magazine has a free weekly Scam Alerts service you can sign up to here. This will alert you to all the latest telephone and online scams.

Verify caller identities

Scammers often manipulate caller IDs to appear trustworthy, using tactics known as ‘spoofing’.

Never rely solely on the displayed phone number or the name on your caller ID. If a call seems suspicious, take extra steps to verify the caller’s identity. Call back using a known, official phone number rather than one provided during the call.

Guard personal information

Legitimate organisations, including banks and government agencies, will never ask for sensitive information such as passwords, PINs, or social security numbers over the phone. Be cautious and never share personal info unless you are certain of the caller’s authenticity. When in doubt, hang up and contact the organisation directly, using official contact details you have obtained from a trustworthy source.

Recognize common scam tactics

Telephone scammers often use tactics such as urgency, threats, or promises of rewards to manipulate victims. Be sceptical of unsolicited calls, especially those pressuring you to make immediate decisions. Legitimate organisations will give you time to consider and verify information.

Be extra wary of automated calls

A common ploy used by scammers is to use automated services to call huge numbers of potential victims.

The messages vary but typically they warn that your bank account has been compromised and ask you to ‘Press one to speak to one of our agents’. If you do this you will be put through to a scammer who will try to get your bank details from you. If you get a call like this, just put the phone down.

If you are at all worried, call your bank (or whoever they claim to be) on an official number to reassure yourself all is well.

Use call blocking and screening

Take advantage of call-blocking apps and features provided by your mobile or landline service provider. These tools can help filter out known scam numbers and reduce the likelihood of receiving fraudulent calls. 

You can also opt out of receiving calls from overseas or where the number has been withheld. Be careful about the latter, though, as legitimate users (e.g. hospitals) sometimes do this as well.

Register with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS)

The TPS is the UK’s official ‘Do Not Call’ register for both landline and mobile numbers. It allows individuals (and businesses) to opt out of receiving unsolicited marketing calls. Registering with the TPS won’t stop all scam calls (especially from overseas) but it should reduce them.

You can register your phone number(s) for free on the TPS website or by calling 0345 070 0707 (local rates apply). 

Additionally, you can now register your mobile number for free by texting ‘TPS’ and your email address to 85095 from your phone.You will receive a text message confirming your number has been successfully added to the TPS database.

Educate vulnerable loved ones

Ensure that vulnerable individuals, such as elderly relatives or friends, are aware of the risks associated with telephone scams. Teach them to be cautious and advise them how best to handle suspicious calls. Age UK has a useful web page listing scams seniors may be especially vulnerable to (though anyone could become a victim of these).

Report suspicious activity

:If you receive a suspicious call, report it to the appropriate authorities. In the UK, you can report telephone scams to Action Fraud by visiting their website or calling 0300 123 2040. Reporting scams helps law enforcement track and combat fraudulent activities.

Stay updated on security measures

Keep abreast of security measures implemented by your telephone service providers, landline and mobile. Companies regularly update their systems to enhance security and protect customers from potential scams. Familiarise yourself with these updates to ensure you are using the latest protections available.

Closing thoughts

By staying informed, being cautious, and following the measures set out above, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to telephone scams.

Trust your instincts and take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from potential fraud. Stay vigilant, stay informed, and above all please stay safe.

As always, if you have any comments about this article, please do leave them below.

Photo credits: Pexels

Nick Daws

Mouthy Blogger

Nick Daws is a semi-retired freelance writer and editor. He is the author of over 30 non-fiction books, including Start Your Own Home-Based Business and The Internet for Writers. He lives in Burntwood, Staffordshire, where he has been running his personal finance blog at Poundsandsense.com for over seven years.

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