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Detecting and Reporting Phone and Online Scams (AkLA 2022): Protecting Yourself

General Tips - Calls

We think the best way to defend yourself from scam phone calls is not to answer any number you do not recognize. If you don't answer, they cannot scam you. If it's important, they'll leave a voice mail. If the voicemail is from a person or organization you recognize, call them back at a phone number you already have for them or have found through your own search. For agencies and companies, DO NOT call back the number left in the voice message.

But if you pick up the phone and it feels like a scam, here are some suggestions with justifications from the Federal Trade Commission:

Hang up - Even if it’s not a scammer calling, when a company is calling you illegally, it’s not a company you want to do business with. When you get a robocall, don't press any numbers. Instead of letting you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, it might lead to more robocalls.

Consider call blocking or call labeling - Scammers can use the internet to make calls from all over the world. They don’t care if you’re on the National Do Not Call Registry. That’s why your best defense against unwanted calls is call blocking. Which type of call-blocking or call-labeling technology you use will depend on the phone — whether it’s a cell phone, a traditional landline, or a home phone that makes calls over the internet (VoIP). See what services your phone carrier offers, and look online for expert reviews. For cell phones, you also can check out the reviews for different call-blocking apps in your online app store.

Don’t trust your caller ID - Scammers can make any name or number show up on your caller ID. That’s called spoofing. So even if it looks like it’s a government agency like the Social Security Administration calling, or like the call is from a local number, it could be a scammer calling from anywhere in the world.

General Tips - Texts and Emails

Here are suggestions we've heard for dealing with scammers in emails and text:

  • Never reply, not even to say "stop", "unsubscribe", etc. This lets them know you have a live email address..
  • Use your e-mail client to flag mail as junk or block the senders. 
  • Avoid clicking links from untrusted sources. 
  • If you get an e-mail with links from a trusted source, mouse over the link before clicking. This will bring out the URL that this link will really take you to. It may not be what's shows up in the message. When in doubt, don't click. 
  • Don't open attachments from strangers. If you get an email with an unexpected attachment from someone you know, contact them by a channel you already know to confirm they sent it to you.