The telephone is a convenient tool for swindlers. In addition to landlines, the widespread use of cell phones makes it possible to reach people 24/7. With 270 million wireless subscribers a call or text away, swindlers have found a new method of communicating with potential victims. Scam calls can be live or automated. There are no visual clues to raise your suspicion. A phone call is immediate and personal. A con artist can spin you a story quickly and convincingly. You’re on the spot. And if they don’t get the desired response the first time, they can call back again and again.
In general, fraudulent phone calls tend to play on your fears. There’s some crisis that requires you to act immediately. You or someone you know is in trouble or could be in trouble unless you do X, where X equals pay money. Or provide information (credit card number, bank account password) that will allow them to help themselves to your money.
Phone scams present a dilemma. Unlike a knock on your door, it’s not always possible to avoid answering the phone. There are genuine emergencies that arise. There are people you want and need to speak to on the phone. Caller ID is not always helpful, since technology allows for the disguising of phone numbers, making a call from halfway around the world appear as if it’s coming from your neighborhood.