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Saturday, October 21, 2023

Best Ways to Protect Your Data from Phone Scammers

You have probably heard of identity theft. And while this is one of the worst things that can happen as a result of phone scams, having your money or data stolen can be just as bad. In some cases, data loss may not even be an objective of the scam but occur as a byproduct. While most people know they should not communicate their passwords or social security numbers to strangers over the phone, some scams are more sophisticated and you need to know how to recognize them as such to avoid becoming a victim. Here are a few tips that should help you protect your sensitive data from fraudulent calls.

Tip 1: Don’t believe people are who they say they are

As reported by CNBC, nearly 70 million Americans fell victim to phone scams in 2022. One of the reasons why so many people become victims of phone scammers is because they do not check the identity of the caller. Just because someone on the phone says they are your bank or the representative of a government agency, does not mean it is true. If a stranger pretends to represent an institution and then asks for sensitive data, that stranger is most likely trying to scam you.

Because some scammers are more sophisticated, it is not always easy to determine whether the person contacting you is a scammer or not. While you should never give sensitive data to a stranger over the phone, there may be times when you need to know more about the person contacting you. One way to do so is by going to PhoneHistory and entering the phone number of the stranger who has contacted you. Thus, you can find valuable information about them, including personal name or company name and business profile, among others.

Tip 2: Fortify your device and networks

There is a good chance some of your data – including passwords and Social Security numbers – can be accessed through your phone. If this is the case, one of the best things you can do is to fortify your device and network by making sure you have the latest versions of your security software, operating system, and all other apps.

Phone apps and your phone’s operating system will typically let you know when an update is needed. Although frequent update notifications can be a bit annoying, they exist for your own good. Most of these updates are security updates and unwillingness to update frequently will increase the chances of falling victim to hacking. You may also want to consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when you are using public Wi-Fi, as it will allow you to encrypt your data.       

Tip 3: Never give sensitive data to strangers over the phone

This is perhaps the most important tip of all since it is the easiest way to steal data as long as the potential victims are not aware of what is going on. While it is OK to communicate some personal information when you know for sure with whom you are talking, never do so when the person pretending to represent your bank could be someone else.

Even if you are talking to a representative of your bank, do not disclose information such as credit card numbers. In fact, a bank or credit card company will not ask you for your full credit number over the phone – just the last digits.

Tip 4: Avoid untrusted apps

When you download an app from Google Play or Apple’s App Store, it is unlikely that the app in question will steal your identity or money. While no app is completely trustworthy and there are examples of well-known companies that have used users’ data in questionable ways, apps downloaded from these platforms are screened before they reach consumers.

Apps downloaded from other sources, such as an unknown website, are a completely different story. Such apps are more likely to contain viruses and if you install them on your phone, you might end up being hacked in a matter of seconds. If you ever receive a call being advised to download an app, ignore the call or report it.

Tip 5: Do not respond to message phishing

Sometimes scammers do not try to convince you directly to perform an action but create automatic messages that expose thousands of people to the same malware. For example, you may end up on a web page with pop-ups that try to convince you there is a virus on your computer and you need to download an antivirus app. The so-called anti-virus is a virus and by downloading it you are putting your data in danger.

A similar trick is to send an SMS that is meant to convince you to click on a link that contains malware or spyware. If you do click on it, your device may get infected and your data stolen. When these phishing messages do not contain viruses, they may attempt to trick you into calling a premium rate number, giving personal information, or enrolling in a subscription.

Tip 6: Be aware of one-ring scams

Perhaps one of the most challenging scams is the one-ring one, where an unknown number rings once, luring you to call back. If you do call back, hefty fees are charged, and scammers are the ones who benefit from them.

This scam can be more difficult to detect because it is not always easy to tell apart scammers from genuine one-ring calls. However, such calls often originate from international area codes. If, for example, you receive a one-ring call from France but you do not know anyone there, it is probably best that you do not call back.

Bottom line: Attention and knowledge are all you need

No matter how good you are at detecting scams, it is not impossible to fall victim to one. In the eventuality that your data does get stolen, you need to act as fast as possible. If you have lost control of your phone number, call your service provider. Once you do so, also change your account password. If your credit card or bank data has been exposed, contact your bank institution to block any future transactions.

Even though you may not become completely immune to scams, having a good understanding of how mobile scams work and paying constant attention to risk signs will significantly lower the risks of losing your data and money. If you do fall victim to a scam, you can reduce the damage by knowing how to respond to it.

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