If You Pick Up the Phone and Hear This, Hang Up, FBI Says in New Warning
Not doing so could leave you trapped on the line with a scammer.
From relentless telemarketers to misdialed calls, we all see unknown numbers pop up on our phone screens more often than we'd like. Most Americans say they don't answer when they get these calls, but some of us pick up just in case—and by doing so, we could be putting ourselves at risk. In many instances, there's a scammer on the other end of the line. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) just released a new alert to people across the country, warning them about a rising scam aimed at anyone who picks up calls from numbers they don't recognize. Read on to find out what the FBI says you should be listening for.
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Americans have already received billions of spam calls this year.
If you're feeling overwhelmed with robocalls, you're hardly alone. Robokiller, an app dedicated to combating these calls, recently released its 2022 Mid-Year Phone Scam Report, detailing how prevalent this problem really is.
According to the report, Americans have already received an estimated 40 billion spam calls between Jan. and June 2022 alone. It's projected that by the end of this year, these robocalls will reach a height of over 86 billion—a 19 percent increase from the year prior. "Spam calls are on pace to reach the highest levels on record," Robokiller warned in its report.
Spam calls can have serious consequences.
With unwanted calls and robocalls, it's often a scammer on the other end of the line, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Robokiller's report has found that Americans have already lost an estimated $30 billion to spam call scams from January to June of this year—which is the same amount that was lost from these schemes in all of 2021. By the end of 2022, Americans are projected to lose around $59 billion to robocall scams, per Robokiller.
"Catastrophic losses like these not only have a significant financial impact, but also an emotional impact on the victims," the company explained in its report. Scammers utilizing spam calls might also attempt to get you to share your personal information in order to commit identity theft, according to the FTC.
The FBI is now warning about a specific tactic scammers are using.
There are "countless ways" con artists will try to scam you over a phone call, according to the FTC. Recently, the FBI Field Office in Sacramento, California, released a new alert warning Americans about a common scheme being utilized by scammers right now. According to the office, you should be wary of unsolicited calls in which "the caller claims to be from the FBI."
"Nothing sends a person into a panic like a call from law enforcement, especially when the call informs them that they have been a victim of a crime or may be wanted for a crime," Acting Special Agent in Charge Dennis Guertin said in a statement. "Sadly, that response is something scammers are leveraging with increased frequency, so it is important to educate the public about what to look out for."
You should hang up if you receive a call like this.
Any unsolicited call could be a scammer attempting to "gain your trust and separate you from your hard-earned money," the FBI Sacramento office warned. In order to protect yourself, the agency said your best bet is to always send unsolicited phone calls to voicemail. "Most call centers will not leave a message," the FBI explained.
But if you do end up answering and you hear the person on the other end of the line claiming to be from the FBI, don't be afraid to end the call—even if it turns out to actually be the FBI and not a scammer. "The public should not be afraid to hang up on an alleged agent. An authentic FBI agent will find other ways to contact you, if necessary," Guertin said.
According to the agency, an official FBI special agent will never provide a badge number or telephone number over an unsolicited call as the only means to verify their identity. Instead, a real agent will direct you to the FBI's official website so that you can locate your local field office's telephone number and make a call yourself.
"Some scammers impersonate FBI agents over the phone," the Sacramento office warned. But anyone actually connected with the agency will never call you to "make demands for money wire transfers, gift cards, or bitcoin; coordinate financial transactions of any kind; [or] threaten arrest."