There has been a rise in phone scams recently, and I am seeing a twist that makes it easier to fall for them. Three times in as many days I got a call where the number on the caller display screen of my phone was a local one. Thinking it might be a friend or customer, I picked up straight away, only to hear someone claiming to be from ‘Amazon security’ saying they had detected possible fraudulent activity, and that someone used my account to order an iPhone costing £700. Needless to say, it was just to get me worried and then draw me into whatever their scheme was.
Making a phone call look like it comes from a different number is called ‘spoofing’ and it is nothing new. Scammers calling from abroad (where they can’t be touched by our authorities) have long spoofed their numbers to look like they come from the UK – and keep using different ones so blocking them on your phone is ineffective. But spoofing numbers local to you is a new twist. Of course, I know Amazon doesn’t have offices in Holmes Chapel, so the ruse backfired on them, but at least they got me to pick up. It is easy to get panicked by calls like this and that is when you make mistakes.
Some scammers spoof the genuine numbers of the organisation they claim to be calling from, so even if you recognise a number as your bank, energy supplier or whatever (or if you have those numbers in your phone so the name displays when a call comes through) it may not be them!
Amusingly, just when I was getting fed up with all the calls, the next one I got was a lady offering to block nuisance calls for me for life. I laughed and hung up. If only that were possible! The only thing you can be sure of is that if you pay these people money, you will get a lot more scam attempts in future.
In addition to Amazon Security, I have received calls over the past year claiming to be from:
- Amazon Prime (‘Your renewal is due and £70 will be collected from your bank account. Press 1 to cancel, 2 to confirm.’ Of course, pressing either number would connect you to an operator who wants your bank details ‘for confirmation’ so they can cancel the payment. Never give that kind of information, even if they say it is only to confirm your identity)
- The police or HMRC (‘You owe tax and a warrant has been issued for your arrest’)
- Microsoft or its partner (‘You have a virus on your computer’)
- A firm offering extended warranty on our washing machine. Until recently I actually thought those were genuine…
- My bank, checking unusual activity. (If they say ‘your bank’ but can’t name it, it’s a scam)
In each case, don’t talk to them or give any information, just hang up. If you are in any doubt, ring the organisation in question using a bona fide number, not one the callers gave you, but use a different phone or wait a while because the scammers may still be on the other end – landline phones only disconnect when the caller hangs up, not when you do. Don’t worry about sounding rude: genuine people understand.
Interestingly, the call from my bank was real. But that was fine. When I rang them they looked at my account and we sorted it out. But I rang them, so there was no doubt about whom I was talking to.
A good way to screen calls is to use an answer machine. You can hear the person recording, so if it’s someone you know, you can pick up. Anyone genuine will leave their number, but scammers usually ring off.
STAY CALM. EVEN IF YOU THINK IT’S GENUINE, HANG UP AND RING THEM BACK.
There’s more comprehensive advice at:
- Age UK (for people of any age)
- Computer Doctor (specifically about PC-related scam calls)
- Take Five to Stop Fraud