Spam Calls: A Nightmare for Everyone and an Everyday Issue

 

By: Damaris Villalva, Junior Marketing Associate — Published: April 26, 2019

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It was not until I started working with Vision Care Connect that I realized how big of a problem spam calls are for everyone. The phone rings constantly with many unwanted calls. When it comes to managing inbound marketing for Vision Care Connect, it means that I have to answer every call; I do not want to miss the opportunity to talk with valued patients or potential clients.

Phone calls are still the best way to provide good and effective customer service. We want our clients and patients to feel valued, and the best way to do that is by interacting with them.  When it comes to my personal cell phone, it has gotten to the point where I do not even bother picking up the phone anymore. I used to get so many unwanted calls, even after I registered my number on the Do Not Call list. My experience has probably been as bad as yours. These calls can be annoying, but worst of all, they can be dangerous.

These calls will usually ask for some type of personal information. Scammers are everywhere, looking to obtain your personal information. Just the other day, I got a phone call from the "government" asking to confirm my social security number. This got me thinking, what is the government doing to stop this? Are our service providers doing anything to stop these unwanted calls and potential scams? What can we do to recognize the potential risk?

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Who is Affected?
At some point, everyone has probably received one of these unwanted calls. Sometimes you are just so tired of the calls that you don't answer the phone, then you realize that you missed other important ones. These spam calls do not just target personal phones; they target businesses as well. How does a business like VCC get affected and how do we deal with this problem? This problem impacts business in many ways. Not only do we get annoying calls during business hours, but it causes an unnecessary barrier while trying to communicate with patients. Sometimes these calls sound legitimate, but in reality, they are usually scammers. A couple of the most common calls that you may encounter are some people pretending to be the IRS or calls claiming you are their grand prize winner for their 3-night vacation in the  Bahamas, that you did not recall entering to win in the first place.

IRS Imposter Scam

  • Tax collection call - this is a common scam where they tell you to verify personal information or pay a certain amount immediately, often with a prepaid card or wire transfer. Sometimes they can even threaten to arrest you, which this is not true because the IRS cannot threaten you for not paying a bill.   

  • Verification- you might get a phone call asking you to verify your personal information. This is a way to get you to give them your social security number.

Contest Winner Scam

  • I have won many trips over the years, especially to the Smoky Mountains. Of course, I have never accepted these trips, but they still keep calling me. These types of calls are especially dangerous because a lot of times they ask, “Can you hear me?”. A typical answer to hear from us is,“Yes”. This can allow them to record your voice saying, “yes”, which can make it seem that you agreed to something.

  • Up front fees. In order for them to give you the prize, they might want an upfront fee. This means that they will ask for a payment option such as:

    • Prepaid card

    • Direct wire transfers

    • Cash

  • If you know that you never signed up for a contest, do not pursue it; it is most likely a scam.

Spoofing
So why do you answer the phone?  They use a clever technique called “spoofing”. They use fake telephone numbers that look similar to yours or a local number. We are less likely to answer a phone call if it is from an unknown number or a 1-800 number. So, if the zip code looks familiar, there is a higher chance of us answering it. If you call back,(which I have done) there is usually dead silence, not even a ring or an angry person asking why I am calling.  

Why Hasn't This Problem Been Solved?
Even if you are on the Do Not Call list, you can still get these types of calls. These people are not afraid because they know it is hard for them to get caught. It has become a big problem in the industry today. One thing that the government has done is put up an announcement warning people about scams, but that is about it. You can also file a complaint with the FCC, but it does not do much either.

The government does not have the resources to solve this problem. Technology has been utilized to aid in eliminating scammers, but it can only do so much. It is hard to get it under control when it is such a common issue for everyone. Not only that, but scammers will always find clever ways to obtain the information they want. The next question is, whether service providers can do something about this. After all, it is their services that we are using, so why do they not stop it? Again, the issue remains that it is difficult to catch the mass number of scammers and how it is such a big problem everywhere you go.

What to do if you Get Scam Calls:

  • The best option is to hang up the phone immediately. If you recognize it is a potential scam, do not engage. If they know there is a real person on the other end of the line, then you will be bombarded with more calls in hopes that you will fall to one of their scams.

  • If you are curious, or are not entirely sure if its a scam, verify.

    • Always verify who you are talking to on the phone before giving them any personal information; ask many questions.

    • Ask what company and department they are from. As well as their name and representative number.

    • Verify if that is the way they usually communicate. For example, if it is a notice from the IRS or any government department, they will usually send a written notice over a phone call.

  • Do not provide personal information, credit card number, or bank account information without verifying who it is.

I have spoken to a lot of people on the phone and left a lot of messages. 50% of the time it goes straight to voicemail. Later, when they return the call, they tell me that they never answer calls from unfamiliar numbers. Instead, they rather, wait to receive a voicemail to see who was trying to reach them and why.

A helpful tool that can be used today to send direct messages to clients is through text messages. We have realized that some people prefer to text over a phone call and they usually respond faster to texts. This has been a useful aid for us, so we continue to take advantage of it.

Hopefully this information is something you can take with you, implement yourself, or even share with a friend. You may end up saving someone from falling victim to a scammer in the future.