How to Protect Yourself from Phone Scams?

By Tim Chesonis •  Updated: 03/19/23 •  10 min read
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To protect yourself from phone scams, always stay cautious when answering unknown numbers, and never give out personal information to strangers. Learn to recognize common scam tactics, like high-pressure demands and requests for immediate payment. Use call-blocking apps and register with the National Do Not Call Registry to minimize unwanted calls.

You may think that you could possibly get scammed by a con-artist, especially over the phone, but it could happen to anyone. Do not underestimate these criminals. They are professional con-artists, and have years of experiencing lying to people, manipulating them in a very convincing way. Take this true story for example.

 A 90-year-old Hong Kong woman was robbed of $33 million in a phone scam. From August 13 to January 4, she deposited $31.8 million more into the scammers’ bank accounts. The scheme began to collapse when a domestic helper grew suspicious and alerted the woman’s daughter.

You can read more about the story from this source.

Common Types of Phone Scams

Phone scams come in many forms, with scammers constantly evolving their tactics to catch victims off guard. Understanding the most common types of phone scams can help you stay one step ahead. By knowing what to watch out for, you’ll be better equipped to protect yourself and your finances.


Robocalls are automated phone calls that use pre-recorded messages, often with a computer-generated voice. Scammers use robocalls to reach a large number of people quickly and cheaply, hoping to catch someone off guard.

Some common robocall scams include fake IRS calls, where scammers claim you owe back taxes and demand immediate payment; tech support scams, where they pretend to be from a well-known company and say your computer has a virus they can fix for a fee; and lottery scams, where they claim you’ve won a big prize but need to pay a fee or share personal information to claim it.

Social Engineering Scams

Social engineering is the art of manipulating people into giving up confidential information or performing actions they normally wouldn’t do. In phone scams, social engineering tricks victims into trusting the scammer, making it easier to steal their money or personal details. Some common social engineering scams include:

The Grandparent Scam

The scammer pretends to be a grandchild in trouble and in urgent need of money. They’ll often create a sense of panic, so the grandparent acts quickly without verifying the situation.

Romance Scams

Scammers create fake profiles on dating sites or social media and develop relationships with their victims. Once they’ve gained their trust, they’ll start asking for money, often for an “emergency” or to “visit” the victim.

Fake Charity Scams

Scammers pose as representatives of a real or fictitious charity, asking for donations to help those in need. They exploit people’s compassion and willingness to help others, often using recent natural disasters or other crises to make their story sound more convincing.

Recognizing Phone Scams

Recognizing phone scams is key to protecting yourself and your hard-earned money. Scammers are always coming up with new tactics, but there are some common signs to look out for. By learning to identify these red flags, you can avoid falling victim to their schemes.

Unfamiliar Phone Numbers

Being cautious with unfamiliar phone numbers is important because scammers often use fake or spoofed numbers to hide their identity. They want to trick you into picking up the phone and engaging with them so they can manipulate you into sharing your personal information or sending them money.

To identify potential scam calls from unknown numbers, try these tips:

  • Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize. If it’s important, they’ll leave a voicemail.
  • Use a search engine to look up the number. Sometimes, others have reported it as a scam or spam number.
  • Be cautious with numbers that look similar to yours. Scammers often spoof numbers with the same area code and prefix, making it seem like a local call.
  • Trust your instincts. If a call feels off or suspicious, hang up and block the number.

Pressure and Urgency

Scammers use pressure and urgency to manipulate victims by creating a sense of panic or fear. This makes people more likely to act without thinking, giving the scammer an advantage in getting what they want.

Examples of high-pressure tactics used in phone scams include:

  • Claiming there’s a limited-time offer or an urgent deadline to make a payment, forcing the victim to act quickly without verifying the situation.
  • Threatening severe consequences, like legal action or arrest, if the victim doesn’t comply immediately.
  • Insisting the victim stay on the phone until a task is completed, such as transferring money or providing personal information, to prevent them from seeking advice or help from others.

Inconsistencies and Suspicious Requests

Being aware of inconsistencies in the caller’s story or requests is crucial because scammers often rely on deception and manipulation to get what they want. Identifying these inconsistencies can help you determine if you’re dealing with a scammer, allowing you to protect yourself from potential harm.

Common red flags to watch for include:

  • Requests for personal information
    Scammers may ask for sensitive information like your Social Security number, bank account details, or passwords, which they can use for identity theft or financial fraud.
  • Immediate payment demands
    Scammers often pressure you to make a payment right away, usually through unconventional methods like gift cards, wire transfers, or cryptocurrencies, which are harder to trace and recover.
  • Inconsistencies in their story
    Pay attention to any discrepancies in what the caller is saying or if their story changes during the conversation. This may indicate they’re lying to manipulate you into complying with their requests.

Preventing Phone Scams

Preventing phone scams is all about being proactive and taking steps to minimize your exposure to potential threats. There are several measures you can take to reduce the likelihood of falling victim to scammers. By implementing these strategies, you’ll be better prepared to protect yourself and your personal information.

Register with the National Do Not Call Registry

The National Do Not Call Registry is a service provided by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that allows you to opt out of receiving telemarketing calls. By registering your phone number, you reduce the number of unwanted sales calls, making it less likely that you’ll encounter phone scams.

To register, visit the National Do Not Call Registry website ( and follow the instructions to add your phone number. However, keep in mind that the registry won’t stop all unwanted calls. Scammers often ignore the registry’s rules, and it doesn’t cover calls from charities, political organizations, or survey calls.

Registering with the Do Not Call list will reduce your exposure to potential scams.

Block and Report Suspicious Calls

You can block unwanted calls on your phone by using your device’s built-in call-blocking feature or downloading a third-party call-blocking app. For built-in features, the process may vary depending on your device, but generally, you can find the option to block a number in your call log or contacts app.

To report phone scams to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), visit their complaint website ( and follow the instructions for filing a complaint. Include as much information as possible, like the scammer’s phone number and any details about the scam. You can also report phone scams to your local authorities by contacting your local police department’s non-emergency number or filing a report online if your local department has a reporting system in place.

Reporting scams helps authorities track and investigate these crimes, potentially preventing others from falling victim.

Use Caller ID and Call-Blocking Apps

Caller ID helps you identify potential scams by displaying the phone number and, in some cases, the name of the person or organization calling you. By showing this information, you can decide whether to answer the call or ignore it, especially if it’s an unfamiliar or suspicious-looking number.

There are several call-blocking apps available that can help protect you from unwanted calls. Some popular options include:

  • Hiya
    This app identifies and blocks spam calls, providing information about the caller and allowing you to create a personalized block list.
  • Nomorobo
    Nomorobo identifies and blocks robocalls, telemarketers, and spam callers, while still allowing legitimate calls to come through.
  • Truecaller
    Truecaller identifies and blocks spam calls and text messages, and lets you search for unknown numbers to see if they’ve been reported as spam.

These apps work by using large databases of known scam and spam numbers, as well as user reports, to identify and block unwanted calls. They typically offer options to customize your blocking preferences and report new numbers to help improve their databases.

What to Do If You Fall for a Phone Scam

Even the most vigilant individuals can sometimes fall for a phone scam. If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, it’s essential to know how to respond effectively. Taking the right steps can minimize the damage and prevent the scam from causing further harm to you or others.

Act Fast

Acting quickly after falling for a scam is crucial because it can help minimize the potential damage to your finances, credit, and personal information. The sooner you respond, the better your chances of stopping unauthorized transactions or preventing identity theft.

Steps to take after falling for a scam include:

  • Contact your bank or credit card company
    Inform them of the situation and ask to freeze your accounts or cards to prevent unauthorized transactions. They may also help you dispute any fraudulent charges.
  • Notify credit bureaus
    Contact the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to place a fraud alert on your credit reports. This will make it more difficult for the scammer to open new accounts in your name.
  • Change your passwords
    If you shared any passwords or login credentials with the scammer, change them immediately to protect your online accounts.

Report the Scam

Reporting the scam is essential because it helps authorities track and investigate these crimes, potentially preventing others from falling victim to the same scheme. Sharing your experience also contributes to public awareness and provides valuable information that can be used to develop new strategies for combating scams.

To file a report:

  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
    Visit the FTC’s complaint website ( and follow the instructions to file a complaint. Provide as much information as possible, including the scammer’s phone number and any details about the scam.
  • Local police
    Contact your local police department’s non-emergency number or file a report online if your local department has a reporting system in place.
  • Other relevant agencies
    Depending on the nature of the scam, there may be other agencies to report it to, such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for tax-related scams, or the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for phone-related scams.

Remember that reporting scams is a crucial step in fighting back and helping others avoid similar situations.

Learn from the Experience

Using your experience as a learning opportunity is an essential step in better protecting yourself from future scams. Reflect on the red flags and tactics the scammer used, and use that knowledge to be more vigilant in the future. Familiarize yourself with common scams and stay up to date on emerging threats, so you’re better prepared to recognize and avoid them.

Sharing your story and educating others about phone scams is also very important. I know that it is embarrassing, but by raising awareness, you can help friends and family avoid falling victim to similar schemes. Encourage them to learn about common scams, share resources, and promote open discussions about these issues to create a community of informed and prepared individuals. Together, you can build a strong defense against phone scammers.

Tim Chesonis

Tim loves writing to help people succeed. He loves tech, Linux, his iPhone and iPad. When he's not writing another article, he's probably binge-watching “The Middle” or “Breaking Bad”, (again). To learn more about Tim, click here.