5 Ways to Verify Callers and Protect Yourself from Scams

We all know about the dangers of scam emails, but scam phone calls are just as prevalent, remaining a popular way for criminals to steal your money or information.

Gemma Davison
Updated 15 September 2021
5 Ways to Verify Callers and Protect Yourself from Scams

United States Scam Call Statistics 2020

56 million Americans lost money
33% of all fraud complaints

$19.7 billion lost to scam callers

Source: Comparitech

Sections on this page
  1. How to Verify Callers without Answering
  2. How to Verify Callers after Answering
  3. Answering Unknown Calls: Do's and Don'ts
  4. Common Red Flags of Scam Calls
  5. Frequently Asked Questions

Technology has made scam calling easier than ever. With auto-dialers, scammers can send out millions of robocalls (prerecorded voice messages) a day, enticing you to interact with the caller by claiming you’ve won a big prize, they need to verify activity on your account, or ironically, that your identity may have been compromised. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 70% of reported fraud attempts start with a phone call. Therefore, it’s so important that you know exactly who is calling you and how to verify callers.

How to Verify Callers without Answering

You can try to verify callers before you even pick up the phone call. Unfortunately, since scammers can spoof phone numbers, it's not as simple as just checking your caller ID.

1. Send it to Voicemail

If you receive a call from an unknown number, send the call the voice mail. Answering a scam call often leads to more nuisance calls as it shows scammers that you’re a potential victim, willing to answer unsolicited calls.

What is Vishing?

Vishing occurs when a scammer calls you impersonating a genuine person or legitimate organization.

Vishers often leave voicemails, hoping to entice you to call them back e.g claiming to be from your bank and a data breach means you need to change your password immediately.

Delete the voicemail and contact the bank (or wherever the caller claims to be from) directly.

Talking of voicemail, be sure to protect yours with a password. Some voicemail services allow access if you call from your own number. A scammer could spoof your number and hack your voicemail and access messages containing sensitive information.

2. Reverse Number Search

If you find a strange missed call or are unsure about answering a number you don’t recognize, you can do a reverse number search. A reverse number search will help you to identify where the call came from and the name or company.

Some reverse number services will also let you know if the unrecognized number has been reported by other users as being linked to a scam. With this information, you can decide whether or not you should call the number back or add it to your block list.

3. Use a Spam Blocking App

There are dozens of useful scam call blocking apps that give you an extra layer of protection against nuisance calls.

Call blocker apps work by identifying an incoming caller by comparing the number against a database of known scam callers. If a match is found, the scam call is blocked even before it reaches your phone. 

Some call blockers use advanced caller ID features that warn you when an incoming call has been linked to the scam, and in some cases the type of scam e.g. “Insurance Scam”. You can also lookup unknown numbers that have called you and if they have been linked to a scam.

Some of our favorite call blocking apps include:

  • Hiya - Provides effective incoming scam call detection and unlimited lookups for unknown numbers against the extensive Hiya database.
  • TrueCaller - Not only automatically blocks scam calls, but also offers excellent caller ID features, including where the caller is likely to come from an unknown number searches.
  • YouMail - Block numbers linked to scam calls and create your own list of blocked numbers. Plus, the premium plan has some great additional features for small businesses.

What Are Spoofed Numbers?

Number spoofing is when scammers change their caller ID to disguise who they really are. Scammers can even change their caller ID to appear that they are calling from a different location or from a genuine company.

This means that you can’t place all of your trust in caller ID. If you’re not expecting a call from a certain organization, it may be wise to let the call go to voicemail.

Protect yourself against spoof calls by never handing out personal information in response to an incoming call. Instead, hang up and call the alleged caller directly from the legitimate number from your statements or official website.

How to Verify Callers after Answering

You can also verify who is calling you after answering the call. Remember, don't trust what your caller ID says—if it says "Social Security," it doesn't mean it's actually the Social Security Administration.

1. Ask To Call Them Back

If an unsolicited caller asks you to provide any personal information, no matter how insignificant it seems, don’t tell them anything. Instead, ask if you can call them back later.

Most scammers will try to avoid having you call back and use urgency to convince you to talk to them now. Some may give you a phone number to call back—look this number up and see if it matches the company’s phone number online. 

Instead of calling the number, they give you, call the phone number that you find on the company’s website and have them transfer you through to the caller. This is the best way to find out if the caller was legitimate or not.

2. Ask Questions

It’s not for you to verify yourself to someone who calls you, the responsibility lies with the caller. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions. Legitimate companies, organizations, and charities will patiently answer your questions to consider their request, or whether to make a purchase or donation.

Scam callers will pressure you into taking action straight away—they don’t want you to take time to think about any potential red flags. Scammers will often use scare tactics to get you to commit quickly, such as threaten you with legal action or claim that your identity has already been compromised.

Answering Unknown Calls: Do's and Don'ts

Do Don't
 Hang up on robocalls immediately.  Hand over any personal information, even if they appear genuine.
 Call the person back on a verified phone number.  Rely only on caller ID to tell you who is calling you.
 Add your phone number to the Do Not Call Registry.  Respond to threats or personal attacks. 
 Block scam numbers.  Pick up phone calls from numbers you don't know or look suspicious.

Common Red Flags of Scam Calls

Pre-recorded messages from robocallers are often a sure sign that you’re dealing with a scam caller. You should hang up on all of these calls immediately, and any other callers that:

  • Threaten you with legal action if you don’t agree to pay tax fines or fix issues with your SSN, etc. They may also demand you verify personal information.
  • Use pushy sales tactics to try and get you to part with your financial information on the spot. If you don’t, you’ll miss out on the deal of a lifetime.
  • Claim to be from a government agency, financial institution, or charity. It’s rare for these organizations to call you unsolicited.
  • Are from companies that you have not authorized to call you, particularly if your number is on the National Do Not Call Registry.
  • Claim you’ve won a prize from a competition that you don’t remember entering, you just need to provide some personal details or bank account details.
  • Offer you product or travel deals that are too good to be true.
  • Ask you to keep quiet about the call and situation (e.g., in order not to compromise an investigation).

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do if I receive (and answer) a scam call?

If you do happen to answer a scam call, hang up as soon as possible and call back the organization the caller claimed to represent using the legitimate phone number. Plus, never give out any personal information to an unsolicited caller, like your SSN or financial account details.

Generally speaking, it’s best not to answer calls you don’t know, as if you pick up one scam call, it marks you as a target for more nuisance calls in the future. If you do answer a scam caller, block the number as soon as you hang up to prevent repeated calls.

How do I report scam calls?

You can report scam calls to the FTC. Any information you provide will help the FTC track down scam callers, so collect as many details as you can, including the number of the caller and the time and date of the call.

Is there a way to block scam calls?

The major phone carriers offer protection against scams and nuisance calls. Some of these call blocking and caller ID services are included within your plan, but you may have to pay for some features. Check with your provider what scam call protection they offer and how you can activate it.

Even with these protections in place, some scam callers will inevitably slip through, so you may also want to install a call blocking app. Many of these apps have extensive databases of the numbers of known scam callers and will block them even before they reach you. Plus, advanced caller ID features let you know who is calling you and allows you to look up unknown numbers that have called you.

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