Tips to help avoid falling victim to persistent robocall scammers

Robocalls and con jobs are on the rise, and even smart people are falling for the scams. A D.C.- based consumers’ group has advice for how to be just a little more cautious and less vulnerable.

“You really do have to be on guard … it’s just a game of whack-a-mole for the regulators to prevent this, and they’re having a hard time, obviously, because the calls keep coming,” said Kevin Brasler of Washington Consumers’ Checkbook.

What about the Do Not Call Registry that’s been around for ages?

“Consumers should sign up for that if they don’t want to get bothered by legitimate calls. But the criminals, they don’t abide by the law, they don’t check with that registry, ” Brasler said. “They’re calling anyway.”

Fake calls make myriad claims involving everything from student loans and questionable credit card charges, to hijacked accounts and overdue bills.

Checkbook said that according to Nomorobo, a robocall blocking service, scammers make nearly 30% of all calls placed on U.S. telecommunications networks.

Some tips to prevent being victimized:

  • Don’t answer calls identified as “possible robocall.” Listen to the message before deciding whether to return the call.
  • If you think a message leaving a number to call is for legitimate business, look up the business phone number independently.
  • With text messages and emails, never click on a link unless you’re absolutely positively sure it’s from a trusted legitimate source.
  • Even with correspondence appearing to come from a bank or retailer you might work with, don’t click on links provided; go find the URL independently to reach out to verify whatever issue is being raised.
  • Independently look up phone numbers provided in correspondence alerting you to supposed problems.

“Really important, don’t pay up, right? Banks and retailers and the federal government, they’re not going to insist that you pay anything via Bitcoin, or Apple gift cards or anything like that. Those are huge red flags,” Brasler said.

If you get a call or are contacted by someone you suspect of malfeasance and are really not sure about what to do, Checkbook recommends AARP’s Fraud Watch Network Helpline as a reliable resource for advice. It’s at 877-908-3360, and you don’t need to be an AARP member to use it.

To try and get out ahead of robocall networks, Checkbook notes there’s a list of call-blocking resources available from phone companies, phone manufacturers and third-party screening services on the Federal Communications Commission’s website.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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