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New Tools and Tips to Combat Phone Scams

Mobile carriers have introduced additional measures to protect users from scammers, with warnings like "scam likely" on phone screens during incoming calls. Despite these efforts, users are advised to remain vigilant and watch for specific indicators signaling potential scam calls.

According to Alex Quilici, CEO of YouMail, a phone screening and blocking service, one key sign of a scam is if the call comes from an area code that the phone company has not allocated. Area codes with identical second and third digits, known as "easily recognizable codes" (ERC), are often left unallocated or reserved for specific purposes, making calls from such codes likely to be scams. For instance, area code 300 is guaranteed to be a scam since it does not exist.

Washington, D.C.'s 202 area code is also a hotspot for scammers, who frequently spoof it to appear as though they are calling from government agencies like the IRS or Health and Human Services.

Quilici also highlighted the prevalence of scam calls from 800 numbers, explaining that the vast emptiness in the 800 space and the difficulty in blocking certain numbers make it an attractive target for scammers. Spoofing of 800 numbers is also common among fraudulent callers.

Another tactic employed by scammers is "neighbor spoofing," where they mimic not only the area code but also the first three digits of the recipient's phone number, creating a false sense of locality to increase the chances of the call being answered.

Additionally, Quilici warned against a tactic involving three rings followed by silence. Some robocalling software initiates three rings and then disconnects, preventing the call from going to voicemail and leaving an audio trace.

To stay safe, Quilici recommends allowing unfamiliar calls to go to voicemail. Legitimate callers can be called back using the official number from known sources, such as the back of a credit card or utility bills, rather than relying on callback numbers provided by unidentified callers. Taking these precautions can help users avoid falling victim to phone scams.

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