You know how this scene unfolds: the phone rings (usually just as we’ve sat down to dinner) and we all rush to answer it, only to see it displaying an unfamiliar number. “Should I answer it, or not?”, we ask ourselves. “Na, it’s probably just another scam caller or a telemarketer or robocall.” Talk about annoying!

But there are things we can do to thwart them – ways to block unwanted calls or silence them – or even to set up warnings.

Robocalls are arguably the worst. Not only do these spam calls irritate and anger most of us to no end, but they scam hundreds of thousands of people every year. Let’s learn how to avoid being the next victim!

Four Types of Common Phone Scams

The Tech Support Scam

These calls tend to target senior citizens. The caller says they’ve detected a virus or some other problem with your computer and that for a small fee they can fix it.

What’s nasty about this kind of scam is that it’s not only designed to fraudulently take your money, but it usually sends you a link advising you to click on it, under the auspices that it will download helpful anti-virus software. And bingo, that’s how malware gets downloaded directly onto your computer.

The Inheritance Scam

The caller poses as a foreign government official, banker, government representative or lawyer. They say you have a relative with an overseas bank account full of money and that you’re the rightful recipient or heir. Ooo, pretty tempting, right? Not!

All you have to do to claim this money is to provide them with your financial and personal information so they can send or deposit the funds into your bank account. These callers are some of the pushiest (and most clever) in the scam calling business.

The Emergency Scam

This is another scam that targets senior citizens almost exclusively. These calls are most often received in the middle of the night, waking you out of a deep sleep so as to catch you in a disoriented state. The caller tells you that your child or grandchild is in some kind of trouble and that they need money. They then try to convince you to send them a large sum of money via wire transfer.

The Immigration Scam

These scam calls target people who’re working their way through the Canadian immigration system or are new Canadian residents. The caller pretends to be an immigration officer and informs their victim that their immigration documents were incorrectly filled out or not submitted properly and that they can help fix the problem. The scammer then attempts to collect the person’s personal information as well as their banking information, saying that this service requires a fee. An awful trick.

Take These Two Steps to Help Eliminate the Intrusion

5 Robocalling Rules to Follow

  1. If you don’t recognize the number, don’t answer it. If they really want to reach you, they’ll leave a message.
  2. If you do answer a call and it’s an automated voice from an unknown number, chances are high that it’s a scam call.
  3. Avoid saying the word “yes” if you can. Many robocall scams start with a question like “Hello, can you hear me?” to which people may reply “yes” without thinking. They may ask if you are your name looking for a “yes” answer too. They can then store the recording of your confirmation and use it for fraudulent activities. So, avoid saying yes where possible.
  4. If they ask you if you want to be removed from their list, don’t do it. If you agree to this, it will only increase the number of calls you receive. Why? Because what you’re doing is verifying with them that your number is in fact a valid number.
  5. If they ask you to push a button to speak to an agent, don’t do it (for the same reason stated above).
  6. Don’t say anything. Sometimes scam callers record any speech they get from you on the call and use it against other callers, sometimes against people you know.

3 Reasons Why We’re In This Dilemma

How we got to this state of affairs when it comes to phone scams, spam and robocalls is the result of an erosion of protections.

  1. The first is technological. Advances have magnified fundamental flaws in the North American phone system enabling unrelenting robocalls from untraceable origins.
  2. The second is financial. It’s incredibly profitable to use spam calls to drive business whether the caller is a scammer trying to bilk money out of marks or an actual business using telemarketing to increase sales.
  3. The third is legal. Even if – as we recommend that you do – register on Canada’s Do Not Call list, you’re still vulnerable. Legal recourse is time-consuming and tedious. And enforcement is under-funded.

The best solution is to say nothing and hang up, then use the call blocking feature on your cell phone.

If you’re really curious or feel you’re being preyed upon, do some homework. Look up the numbers yourself based on information on secure websites – you’ll soon find out if the caller was/is from, for example, a utility company, or your financial institution or a government department.