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Tips to protect yourself from robocalls

September 30, 2019
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Michelle Gilbert. Courtesy Comcast

Robocalls are becoming more prevalent. In some cases, it’s difficult to tell if the caller is a person or a robot. Between January and June 2019, fraud calls in the Grand Rapids market have increased by 103%, according to Hiya.

Here are a few tips to help protect yourself from fraudulent phone calls.

— If you don’t know the phone number, let the call go to voicemail.

— If you listen to a voicemail, and it sounds like an official call, call the company to verify that it was a real call. Do not call the number that left you the voicemail.

— If you happen to pick up the phone, do not provide any personal information, especially your credit card or Social Security number.

— Download an app that detects and informs you about robocalls. We are collaborating with Hiya, a free app that sends you alerts about potential spam calls and blocks them. The app also will identify calls from common businesses to provide clarity on who is calling and includes a “neighbor spoofing” blocker, which allows customers to block specific area codes if they notice a lot of unwanted calls coming from them.

Hiya also identifies calls regarding car warranties, Medicare enrollment, and credit card scams as the top three scams in the Grand Rapids market.

Car warranty

During the call, which often begins automated or pre-recorded, the victim may be instructed to press a number or stay on the line, then asked to provide personal information, which potentially can be used to defraud the victim. The scammer may have specific information about the victim’s car and warranty that they use to deceive them into thinking they are a legitimate caller.

Medicare enrollment

These automated calls show up with a local area code and prompt you to press any key to be connected right away to an agent who can sign you up for a new Medicare card. The spammers are “phishing” not only for bank or credit card information but also Social Security numbers and health plan ID numbers they can use for other types of fraud. People who work in the Medicare Marketplace don’t make cold calls, and they never ask for personal information.

Credit card scam

Some credit card scammers will tell the victim they are from the victim’s credit card company and they ask them to confirm or give up some personal information, like your credit card number, credit card security code, Social Security number, or mother's maiden name. After the call ends, the caller uses the information the victim gave to make charges on their account or to create a new account in your name.

Other scammers pretend to be fraud investigation agents for Visa and MasterCard. They will tell the victims their card was flagged for an unusual purchase pattern. They will ask the victim a few questions and will give the victim some personal info to gain their trust and to obtain their credit card security codes to “issue a credit” to their account.

As a provider of both landline and mobile phone service, we're playing a leadership role in the industry-wide effort to develop and implement SHAKEN/STIR, an important protocol to combat fraudulent calls. SHAKEN/STIR verifies that a call is legitimately coming from the phone number displayed on a caller ID; a major milestone in giving customers more control over the calls they answer.