Person answering unknown phone number

Unsolicited phone calls with recorded messages, known as robocalls, have been a nuisance probably since the invention of the telephone. And they’re getting worse. In fact, in a single one-month period this year, there were more than 4.7 billion robocalls placed to U.S. phone numbers. While the telemarketers of yesteryear were certainly annoying, today’s threat is far more dangerous. Robocalls, which some consumers report can occur at all hours of the day and night, may actually be decreasing in number. However, the amount of money that victims lose to phone scammers is higher than ever.

“But I am on the Do Not Call List. Why am I still getting these phone calls?”

If you have put your phone number on the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call registry and you still receive robocalls, that should be your sign that the call is not real. With that said, there are exceptions to the rule. Charities and political campaigns are still permitted to contact you, as are companies you do business with.

“But my caller ID said it was the Social Security Administration!”

It’s okay to be skeptical of your caller ID screen. It is easy for the scammer to change the appearance of the number they are calling from. They can put any phone number or name on your screen in order to entice you to pick up.

“But they said I was in trouble with the police and about to lose my healthcare coverage.”

No matter what story the robocaller gives, ignore it.

The IRS does not call you to inform you about your back taxes or penalties.

The police will not call you about a warrant for your arrest.

Your granddaughter was kidnapped? Try calling them first.

If you are ever in doubt about any situation like this, hang up and contact the company directly. Take down the caller’s information first, including their name, company or agency and employee or agent number they have, the phone number they are calling from and anything else that might be helpful. Then contact that organization directly using a verified phone number. You will quickly find out that no one by that name works there, your account is perfectly fine or your nephew is not in jail. If you do discover that something was legitimately wrong, you can handle it through the proper channels.

“But the caller said that I owe money!”

You will never receive a legitimate phone call in which you must make a payment immediately. It will always be a robocall. Even something like a call from your credit card company or utility company might be a courtesy reminder that you are past due. However, you will never be required to pay over the phone. The IRS and the Social Security Administration, two common scam targets, do not accept phone payments when someone calls you.

“I think I really do have to pay them. Where do I buy an iTunes gift card?”

Never make a payment of any kind with an iTunes gift card unless you own an Apple device and you are buying an app or song. iTunes gift cards, prepaid debit cards and wire transfers are all common tools for scammers, no matter who they claim to work for. They take the information from the card you bought, drain all the money and you cannot get it back no matter what you do. There is no such thing as a legitimate transaction that must be paid for with one of these methods.

“Okay, you have convinced me. So how do I make it stop?”

Fortunately, there are steps the government is working on to crack down on robocalls. Until the miracle cure for this dangerous nuisance appears, there is one thing you can do: ignore the call. Do not answer and hang up, either, since some of the software robocallers use is to track whether or not their potential victim has a working phone number. Answering the call and hanging up will only confirm that the number is good. Also, if you do answer and discover it is a robocall or possible scam, simply hang up. You might offend the caller, but the caller is breaking the law by contacting you in the first place. Do not put yourself at risk to avoid upsetting a criminal.

If you are a victim of identity theft in need of assistance, you can receive free remediation services from ITRC. Call one of our expert advisors toll-free at 888.400.5530 or LiveChat with us. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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