Most common ‘cold call’ phone scams and how to spot them

Cybersecurity, News

This morning it was announced that the UK is going to ban cold calls that are attempting to offer financial products, in a bid to crack down on the number of people falling victim to scams over the phone.

Fraud is one of the most common crimes in the UK, with one in 15 becoming a victim of a scam. But as tactics continue to evolve, how can people protect themselves until the new law comes into force?

Below, in conjunction with Anthony Wallet, Head of Operations at phone repair service Likewize Repair, we have compiled a list of the most common types of scams that are currently targeting phone users, as well as some tips on how to spot a cold call scam. 

What are cold calls and how do scammers use them?

Cold calls are phone calls that you receive from companies that are trying to sell you something, even if you have had no affiliation with them previously. While these calls aren’t technically illegal, it doesn’t mean they aren’t any less frightening or frustrating.

In fact, cold calling is one of the most common techniques used by scammers, who will pose as your bank, or a large well-known company in an attempt to get you to hand over personal information that they can then use for fraud. 

What are the most common types of phone scams?

With scammers becoming increasingly clever, it can sometimes be hard to spot when a call is genuine or if it is someone trying to gain access to your personal information. That’s why it’s important to be wary of the types of scams you may receive, until the UK ban comes into force, as well as some of the typical tricks to look out for.

Compensation Calls

One common type of call that many scammers will use is a compensation call. These are often cold calls from people who claim that you may have been in a car accident recently and might be entitled to compensation. While these calls may actually be genuine, it is often pretty obvious that it is a scam (especially if you haven’t actually been in a car accident). 

However,  if you do receive one of these calls and you have actually been in a road traffic collision, it is better to not engage and phone your own insurance company instead. 

Bank Scams 

Bank scam phone calls are one of the most common reasons people fall victim to fraud because the callers are often very good at making it sound like they are legitimate.

Some tricks you might want to be wary of, is the caller trying to convince you that your account or money is at risk. When they do this, they may ask you to hand over your card details or account information as well as your PIN number, in order to protect your money. However it is important to note that a bank will NEVER ask you for these details over the phone, so if they are it’s likely a fake call.

Number Spoofing 

Another common scam that people need to be aware of is number spoofing. Frighteningly, scammers now have the technology where they can mimic an official phone number, to make you more likely to pick up the phone and think that the call is genuine.

However, if you are in any doubt the call is not legitimate, it is always best to not answer the call or hang up the phone and ring the company directly.

How can you spot a cold call scam?

Turn on spam detection settings on your phone 

First and foremost, one of the easiest ways you can tell if a cold call is a spam number is by turning on the setting on your phone that will automatically detect or block spam numbers from ringing you.

On an Android phone, this can be accessed by going into the phone app, opening up settings and turning on the feature called ‘Caller ID and Spam Protection’. On an iPhone, you can turn on the feature ‘silence unknown callers’ from the phone option in settings which will also stop scammers from being able to contact you. 

You are unable to call the person back on the number they rang you on

If you do decide to pick up the phone and speak to someone who is a scammer, one of the easiest ways to tell if it’s legitimate or not is ringing the ‘official’ number back to see if you get through. If you don’t, the likelihood is they are number spoofing and it’s not a real call.  

They’ll pressure you to pay quickly 

Another way you can tell if a phone call is a scam or not is if you find that they pressure you to give away personal information or bank details fairly quickly. Scammers want you to act without thinking too much about what they said.

So, if they try to scare you through means of saying your bank has been compromised or something similar, it is likely that they will then try to rip you off as soon as possible. If you also try to ask what you are paying for exactly, they often won’t be able to give you a real answer.

Their promises sound too good to be true

Apart from using technology to spoof numbers or to get access to your information, one of the oldest tricks in the book is scammers making promises that sound too good to be true.

For example, if you receive a call that claims you’ve won money or a competition, remember that if it sounds too good to be true, then nearly every time that is the case. If you’re ever in any doubt just hang up the phone.


Chris Price
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