5 tips to avoid phone scams

(BPT) - What do you do when your cell phone rings? If you automatically answer whether you recognize the caller or not, you aren't alone. But, chances are good that the person on the other end may be a scammer looking to trick you into giving out personal information.

Vishing (or voice phishing) involves scammers calling you on your phone and phishing (fishing) for information. Vishers impersonate bank, credit card company or government officials, say they represent a charity or call you with too-good-to-be-true offers. Experts even predict vishing calls will make up almost half of all cell phone calls in the near future.

“Impersonators, also known as 'Vishers', are getting creative about how they obtain access to financial accounts. They'll often pressure you for personal information, passcodes or ask to take over your mobile device by posing as your bank and telling you there is fraud on your account,” said Chip Kohlweiler, Senior Vice President of Security at Navy Federal Credit Union.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and others have identified several common angles that scammers like to use, such as impersonating a government agency, debt relief and credit repair, extended car warranties and prize wins, among others.

It’s all to catch you off guard and get you to share your personal information like bank or credit card information and details like your birthdate or Social Security Number. That’s why knowing how to spot a scam and how to protect yourself and your personal information is so important.

Here are five easy steps to protect yourself:

  1. Don’t let yourself be pressured into giving information over the phone. Keep personal information and passcodes private and never give it out during an unsolicited phone call.
  2. Don’t download any “troubleshooting” apps because they’ll allow the fraudster to take over your device.
  3. If you think a call might really be from your bank, insurance or credit card company, find their phone number on your statement or card and call that number.
  4. Educate yourself about common scam practices. For example, the IRS will never ask for payments over the phone, as well as won’t ask for payment in cash, gift cards, wire transfers or your debit/credit card information. They generally reach out through the mail before they call.
  5. Some phone providers and many smartphones have call-blocking tools that’ll allow you to block calls from undesirable numbers. If you get a scam call, block the number.

“Never share your one-time passcodes with anyone especially over the phone unless you placed the call to the known number. Be skeptical of requests like this and call the number on your statement to speak to a representative,” added Kohlweiler.

Ultimately, the goal is to keep your personal information and financial accounts secure. With these tips in mind, you can avoid falling victim to fraud.

Navy Federal is federally insured by NCUA.

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