Just as technology has grown increasingly sophisticated over the years, so to have the tactics of those who use it to scam and steal from the most vulnerable. Now, as more and more Americans brace for the possible health and economic fallouts from the current COVID-19 outbreak, scammers are proving themselves to be another rising threat, harnessing the fear and uncertainty many of us feel day to day on a growing basis.
Government agencies such as the FBI and reputable news outlets have reported a rise in pandemic-related scam calls, from those selling non-existent COVID-19 home-testing kits to fraudulent “Coronavirus” cleaning services, as well as already common scams like calls from the IRS seeking tax payments. (For the record, a government agency will never call you asking for money without first sending requests via mail).
Here are some tips to help you better protect yourself, and your phone:
1. Don’t answer calls from numbers or callers you don’t recognize. If it’s important, they’ll leave a message and you can call them back. If you do answer and suspect it to be a scam, don’t press any numbers and hang up right away.
2. Always confirm a callback number on a company’s website before returning a call. Scammers will spoof a legitimate business number to look authentic to get you to answer, but then leave a different number when requesting a call back. It’s a huge red flag that you are getting a potential scam call.
3. Be suspect of anyone offering something that seems too good to be true or requires immediate action while you’re on the phone. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “Ignore online offers for vaccinations and home test kits. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).” And always be suspect of unsolicited calls that ask you to take immediate action while you are on the phone. Pressuring you to act right away is a key scammer tactic to get their hands on your hard-earned money. Check known reliable sources, like the CDC, FTC and FCC websites, for the latest information.
4. Do your research on donations. If you receive a call from a charity or organization asking for donations, do your homework before donating. Don’t donate while on the line. Hang up and make your donation directly through their website if that’s an option. If not, call the organization directly from the number listed on their website.
5. Always be suspect of anyone who demands that you pay immediately over the phone or if they only want donations in cash, by gift card or by wiring money immediately.
6. Never share personal information on an unexpected call from any organization. Just like donation requests, hang up and verify who is calling you before you proceed.
7. Help make your device spoof proof — turn on your wireless provider’s scam identification and scam blocking services. All major providers offer a scam identification or scam blocking service for free, but according to a recent survey by First Orion, an overwhelming 82 percent of consumers do not currently use one.
T-Mobile offers free Scam Identification and Scam Block tools to all T-Mobile postpaid and Metro by T-Mobile customers regardless of device and with no app required:
Scam ID: Customers are automatically alerted when an incoming call has been identified by T-Mobile’s network as a likely scam. Scam ID is free and on by default. In 2019, T-Mobile alerted customers to an average 1 billion “Scam Likely” calls per month — or 23,000 calls per minute.
Scam Block: T-Mobile will stop calls identified as “Scam Likely” before they ever reach a customer’s phones. Customers can enable Scam Block in their T-Mobile account or by dialing #662# from their T-Mobile phone.
Caller Verified: T-Mobile has been leading the industry on implementing the FCC recommended STIR/SHAKEN standards. Today, T-Mobile Customers with a Caller Verified-enabled device and the latest software update will see “Caller Verified” on the incoming call screen when T-Mobile has verified that the call is authentic and not intercepted by scammers/spammers.
8. If you think you’ve been targeted, change your passwords and update your accounts. Unfortunately, scams sometimes work. If you think sensitive information like account numbers or passwords has wound up in the wrong hands, change the passwords on all accounts and even any sites you regularly visit. (It’s not a bad idea to update passwords regularly, anyway.) Also, let your bank or card issuer know if you’ve given out credit card information, and check for any fraudulent charges and get a new card.
For more on all of T-Mobile’s call protection options, visit: https://www.t-mobile.com/resources/call-protection.
T-Mobile U.S. Inc. (NASDAQ: TMUS) is America’s supercharged Un-carrier, delivering an advanced 4G LTE and transformative nationwide 5G network that will offer reliable connectivity for all. T-Mobile’s customers benefit from its unmatched combination of value and quality, unwavering obsession with offering them the best possible service experience and undisputable drive for disruption that creates competition and innovation in wireless and beyond. Based in Bellevue, Wash., T-Mobile provides services through its subsidiaries and operates its flagship brands, T-Mobile, Metro by T-Mobile and Sprint. For more information please visit: http://www.t-mobile.com.