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2020 - The Year of New Phone Scams

It comes as no surprise that a lot of phone scams have emerged during 2020. The lockdowns and fear of COVID 19 have inspired scammers to change their approach and use our insecurities against us.

With the holiday season just around the corner, it is more important than ever to stay vigilant and ensure that you don't fall prey to phone scammers.

To give you a clue how serious it is out there, the FTC reports that the median loss from a successful phone scam in 2019 was $1,000, more than triple the median loss across all fraud types. And that was before all the major events that have transpired in 2020.

Now let's see what you should look out for and how you can protect yourself.

The most common phone scams in 2020

According to AAPR"Whether live or automated, scam callers often pose as representatives of government agencies or familiar tech, travel, retail or financial companies, supposedly calling with important information. It might be good news. (You're eligible for a big cash prize! You've been preselected for this great vacation deal!) It might be bad. (You owe back taxes. There's a problem with your credit card account. Your computer is infected with that virus you've heard about.) Whatever the issue, it can be resolved if you'll just, say, provide your Social Security number or make an immediate payment."

Here are just some of the options they tend to use that are 2020 specific

The COVID-19 related phone scams

The biggest ally a phone scammer has is the fear that we all are experiencing during this difficult time. And they hope that that fear will prevent us from recognizing the scam they are trying to pull.

The number one COVID-19 related phone scams is spoofing CDC numbers. The CDC has stated that they have become aware that the general public members are receiving calls appearing to originate from CDC through caller ID. A number of those calls are requesting donations or personal data.

First thing's first. Hang up, coly the number in your preferred phone lookup search and see who is hiding behind it. After all, caller ID can be faked. You can also call the CDC directly to enquire regarding the calls you have been getting. But, most importantly, do not engage if the caller is asking for either personal information or money. That is very clearly a scam.

IRS Scams

We know that the IRS has been very slow this year and that there were a lot of backlogs and worries about how to solve the issue. And since our biggest fear is owing to the IRS, it is naturally the one phone scammers are bound to exploit.

Luckily the IRS has caught up to what they are doing, and the IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig issuedthe following statement "Criminals seize on every opportunity to exploit bad situations, and this pandemic is no exception." "The IRS is fully focused on protecting Americans while delivering Economic Impact Payments in record time. The pursuit of those who participate in COVID-19 related scams, intentionally abusing the programs intended to help millions of Americans during these uncertain times, will long remain a significant priority of both the IRS and IRS-CI."

So, if you don't get in your mail official IRS documentation, you should not be reacting to any scammy phone calls. That is just not how the IRS conducts their business.

Amazon and Apple holiday scams

Scam alert - "Amazon and Apple are calling customers because suspicious account activity requires that the customer provide personal information such as a password or credit card number."

According to Freep "Ron Kroll just finished buying six or seven gifts online for his grandchildren. So, when he got a phone call from Amazon that claimed that he had nearly $800 in charges on his account, well, he kind of panicked.

"It was a recorded message, supposedly from Amazon, stating that there was a pending charge of $799.75," he said.

"This is Amazon calling," he remembers hearing."

If this happens, just hang up, do not press anything. It is a way of scammer obtaining your personal information.

The Apple scam is quite similar. The automated call informs you that your Apple iCloud account had been compromised and that you shouldn't use it to buy online until you fixed the problem. And then the voice asks you to press 1. Just hang up. It is as simple as that.

A very simple way of knowing it is a scam is when a robocall asks you to press one or any other number. The scare that you are overspending or that your account has been compromised is what they are counting on. Stay composed. Hang up and contact Amaya or Apple directly. That way, you will be able to double-check the information before taking the next step.

Don't forget to report scams

By realizing something is a scam and reporting it, you will be able to help others stay safe. The Federal Trade Commission also has a new website - ReportFraud.ftc.gov - where consumers can report a scam whether they have lost money or not. As part of this new service, the consumer receives some advice on what to do next when it comes to a particular problem.

Keep in mind that scammers know that you are using other devices than your PC to make the purchases, whether it's your phone or your tablet. This is why they are more than happy to contact you through those platforms to increases the impact of their scare tactics. But never fall for that. It is never as urgent as they say. Just take a breath, hang up, and check the number via a phone lookup service. The other option is contacting the company that is supposed to have called you directly and asking about the particular issue you have encountered.

The truth of the matter is that scammers are playing the odds that if they make thousands of robocalls, they'll reach someone who ordered items off a certain platform or just had something delivered. It is a guessing game and one that you should not fall for. Or they can reach someone who just had something delivered.

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