We all know that scams and digital fraud are on the rise. But did you know that certain area codes can indicate potential phone scams?
Answering calls or calling unknown people from these area codes – even if they called you first – may cost you money and time and even ruin your credit score.
Keep reading to find out which area codes you should avoid and how to stay safe from common phone-related scams.
Table of Contents
- 9 Common Phone Scams to Avoid
- 1. The One-Ring Scam
- 2. Student Loan Forgiveness Scam
- 3. Failed Delivery Attempt Scam
- 4. Lottery Winner Scam
- 5. Unpaid Taxes Scam
- 6. Bank Account Freeze Scam
- 7. Traffic Pumping Scam
- 8. The “Save You From Scams” Scam
- 9. The Send Money Now Scam
- Potentially Dangerous Area Codes
- Final Thoughts
9 Common Phone Scams to Avoid
Billions of dollars are lost worldwide every year due to financial scams of all kinds. In fact, credit card fraud statistics show just how many good people like yourself are taken advantage of each year.
Fraudsters are constantly looking for more creative ways to get innocent people to hand over their hard-earned cash.
The following list covers common phone scams, dangerous area codes scammers call from, and how to keep yourself safe from fraud of all kinds.
1. The One-Ring Scam
The one-ring scammer calls your phone, lets it ring just once, and then hangs up. Why?
Because it’s human nature to want to call that person back. If you call them back, you could be subjected to international fees and charges from your mobile carrier. Yes, some people have nothing better to do.
2. Student Loan Forgiveness Scam
If you or one of your children owes student loan debt, you may be the target of a student loan forgiveness scam call.
In this call, the caller tells you that you are eligible to have your student loans forgiven, probably through a government program. Problems arise when the caller asks you for personal information or fees that they claim to need in order to complete the transaction.
The solution: As mentioned throughout this article, it’s critical that you never give out personal information unless you know exactly who you’re speaking with.
There are no guarantees that you’re talking to a legitimate representative from a company unless you call the company with a phone number that you obtained directly from the company website.
When in doubt, you could also call the company that services your student loan and ask them about the validity of the offer you received.
Or, read our article on the latest student loan forgiveness programs.
3. Failed Delivery Attempt Scam
Have you ever received a text or call telling you that there was a failed attempt to deliver your package? When you circle back with the caller, you’ll be instructed to give credit card information or address information so that you can get your package.
Don’t comply; instead, call the company you’re expecting a package from and ask if there’s a problem. And if you’re not expecting a package, you know it’s a scam.
4. Lottery Winner Scam
Lottery scam calls tell you that you’ve won the Publishers Clearing House lottery or some other prize. They may even include a link to what looks like a legitimate site.
However, once you click on the link, they’ll ask you for your credit card information or other personal information so they can defraud you or add charges to your credit card.
5. Unpaid Taxes Scam
No one likes getting calls from the IRS. So it’s easy to take it seriously when the voice on the other end of the line says they’re an IRS agent and you need to pay your supposed unpaid taxes right away.
In fact, the would-be agent will often threaten you with outrageous penalties that will make your amount owed much higher if you don’t pay right away.
It’s important to note that the IRS will never call you asking you to pay unpaid taxes. Instead, you’ll get a formal letter from the IRS.
However, if you think the call may be legit, hang up and call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040 for individual tax questions and 1-800-829-4933 for business tax questions.
6. Bank Account Freeze Scam
The bank account freeze scam is another scare tactic call that scammers use. They call and threaten to freeze your bank account, giving you zero access to your money.
The reason the scammer gives for the freeze could be one of many:
- There is suspected fraud on your account
- You owe the IRS or another entity
- The bank was hacked
- Your information was stolen
The scammer might ask you to divulge personal information to “verify” that you are the account owner, all the while using that information to hack your bank account.
Or they may ask you to send money to cover fees to unfreeze your account.
As usual, you’ll want to hang up and call your bank’s customer service number directly to verify any banking-related matter.
They’ll be able to tell you if there is truly a problem with your bank account.
7. Traffic Pumping Scam
This scam involves artificially inflating phone call traffic in areas where rural carriers can charge wireless companies higher-than-normal carrier fees.
Rural carriers partner with companies in the chat line, adult entertainment, and conference call industry to make a quick buck with traffic-pumping scams.
If you call a number and get a message that you’ll be charged a per-minute fee, hang up immediately.
Even if the company doesn’t charge you directly, it will charge your carrier, who will ultimately pass those fees onto users.
8. The “Save You From Scams” Scam
Yes, there are scammers who call to say they can save you from scammers. They’ll tell you that if you spend “X” amount of dollars on their scam protection system, you’ll be free from scammers.
However, the “offer” is a scam in and of itself. Moral of the story: Never send money or share personal information with any company you are unfamiliar with or cannot verify to be legit.
Scams are going to happen because scammers are always finding new ways to scam people, and no company can offer you protection. It’s up to you to avoid giving out payment or other personal information to companies you are unfamiliar with.
9. The Send Money Now Scam
This scam could be presented to you in a number of different ways: your grandchild has been arrested and needs you to post bail, a family member or friend is stranded on the road and needs car repair money, or any other kind of urgent matter.
Since we all want to care for our loved ones, it’s easy to fall for these requests to “help” in times of need. However, there’s a good possibility that the emergency isn’t real at all and that there’s a scammer at the other end of the line.
How do you know if the call to help a loved one out of a bind is legit? Ask them if you can call them back on their personal cell phone number.
If they say you can’t, such as in the case of an arrest where you get one phone call, ask what jail they’re in and call the police department in that city directly.
Potentially Dangerous Area Codes
The scammers listed above may use the area codes listed here. Or they may use other area codes. If you get a phone call from one of the area codes listed below or another area code you’re not familiar with, don’t answer the phone.
- 216 (Cleveland, Ohio)
- 218 (Northern Minnesota)
- 232 (Sierra Leone)
- 268 (Antigua/Barbuda)
- 284 (British Virgin Islands)
- 332, 347 (New York City)
- 469 (Dallas, Texas)
- 473 (Grenada)
- 649 (Turks/Caicos Islands)
- 646 (Manhattan)
- 657 (LaPalma, California)
- 664 (Montserrat)
- 712 (Western Iowa)
- 767 (Commonwealth of Dominica)
- 809, 829, 849 (Dominican Republic)
- 876 (Jamaica)
Other suspicious area codes include 202, 301, 312, 347, 805, 863, 858, 865, 878 and 904.
The bottom line here is that you should always consider a call from an unknown number a suspicious call, regardless of the area code. You also need to be aware of the many different ways phone scammers try to get you to lower your guard in an effort to separate you from your money.
When you get a call from a suspicious number, don’t give out any personal or financial information unless you know without a doubt who you’re dealing with. Remember that you can always verify the situation independently after the fact with the company or government department in question.
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About Laurie Blank
Laurie Blank is a blogger, freelance writer, and mother of four. She’s psyched about teaching others how to manage their money in a way that aligns with their values and has been quoted in Bankrate.
She’s a licensed Realtor with Edina Realty in Minneapolis, Minnesota (also licensed in Wisconsin too) and has been freelance writing for over six years.
She shares powerful insights on her blog, Great Passive Income Ideas, that will show you how you can create passive income sources of your own.
Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank or financial institution. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.