“I just got a phone call that confirmed my name- and then hung up. What gives?”
I know that you, or someone you know, has received a call from a scammer within the past year.
It’s usually people calling your number from all over the world (or even from a private number) asking “Can you hear me?” or “Am I speaking with Mr./Mrs ___?”.
Or sometimes, even saying nothing at all!
But what are the purposes of these calls, and what can we do to protect ourselves?
There are a few possible answers to that question.
One reason why a scammer would ask to confirm your name is to successfully record your voice saying “Yes” so they can use it to steal your information.
You may not have known it, but it’s a perfectly tailored way to steal bank info via call!
But how do they do it, you may be wondering? How does simply saying yes to something mean you’re getting your information stolen?
If a scammer gets a recording of your voice confirming something, they can then use that recording to affirm fraudulent charges made to your card over the phone.
They can use it as a sort of vocal signature, one that says it really was you behind that $10,000 withdrawal!
Another reason why a scam caller may use this method is simply to verify whether the phone number is in use.
In doing something as simple as answering the phone, you confirm that your number is in use, and can be used for future scam calls.
My word of advice? Don’t answer!
A scam caller’s motive is almost always money-focused.
Getting access to your phone number and confirming its status of activity by calling takes them one step closer to getting your bank info. But where do they get your number in the first place?
On the CRTC’s official page, they tell us just that:
“Scammers of all kinds can obtain your telephone number fraudulently or from public lists, such as a phone book. As a result, you can receive scam calls even if you have an unlisted number, or you have registered your number on the National DNCL” (CRTC, 2020).
This of course is Canadian-based information, but we can only assume this is a universal answer.
Searching for numbers through companies and public listings such as in the phone book can be done in any country, and it’s a very real way scammers collect numbers to call.
One way certain scam companies obtain active phone numbers is through sites that require a number upon logging in, and some sites like this will sell the information you put in.
It almost sounds outlandish to place blame for this on household names like Instagram or Youtube or Tiktok, but any site or company may be to blame for selling your phone number to a scam company- big or small!
In an article by Usercentrics (2021) suitably named “Data is the new gold,” they state the reality of that fact perfectly in this quote:
“A company that collects such data might use it for their own purposes – from emailing you about a sale to revamping their website – or sell it to other companies or to a data analysis firm.” (Usercentrics, 2021)
So what can we do if simply owning and posting on websites or personal accounts is a way for companies to collect information?
There are a few ways you can go about protecting yourself. First, let’s go back to the initial problem of these scam calls.
The main thing that will protect you (and potentially deem your number unusable) is just not answering.
Not picking up the call will prevent them from recording any of your voices, and it might help reduce the chance of future calls.
A large portion of calls are just to check if someone is using the number, so not answering can work as prevention.
If you take one thing from this article, take this: Don’t pick up random calls!
If you’re worried about missing something important, remember that all non-scam calls would presumably leave a voicemail.
You most likely aren’t missing anything from random calls coming from all over the world if they don’t leave a message, trust me.
On a larger scale, what can you do to protect your information on the internet?
Nobody likes the thought of their IP address being sold. Good thing there are effective solutions out there!
One of these is the use of VPNs.
If you aren’t aware of what a VPN is, allow me to explain.
VPN stands for “virtual private network”, and it protects your IP address from being seen.
How it works is it reroutes all of your online activity through other servers, essentially protecting who you are and where you go on the internet by masking your IP address through the servers.
This protects you and your information from being seen, so no other parties can find and sell your data.
The only catch is that VPNs are typically a paid service, usually offering monthly subscriptions.
It’s understandable if paying to protect your information isn’t realistic, so in this case just pay close attention to the information and content you place into the hands of the internet.
From scam calls to the bigger picture of stealing precious information, you can never fully trust the web!
Protecting your number and other private contact info is the first step in stopping those pesky calls- and potentially saving you from suspicious bank charges.
If there’s one thing you should’ve learned reading this, it’s that scam calls are a part of a larger problem.
Companies far and wide are plotting to steal and sell people’s information, resulting in random calls to our numbers.
So, always be on the lookout for possible scams, don’t use any affirming language if you do answer, and do your best to try to ignore those pesky calls altogether!
This may be the only way to truly protect yourself. Calls like these are proof that you never really know what’s out there- especially in the age of the internet.
Kaspersky, n.d. What Are Robocalls And How Can You Stop Them
Do Not Pay, n.d. What Is the Purpose of Robocalls and How Can You Stop Them?
Nicholls Jones, S. (2018, November 5) Watch out for (and protect yourself from) these 3 sophisticated phone scams
CRTC, n.d. How to protect yourself from scammers | CRTC
Usercentrics (2021, October 21) Data is the new gold – how and why it is collected and sold.
Empey, C., Latto, N. (2020, April 8) What is a VPN & How Does it Work?.