12 Sneaky Phone Scams That Are Easy To Fall For

Unravel 12 phone scams that could cost you more than just a conversation.

Woman looking shocked at phone
Updated July 18, 2024
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Your phone can be a connection to the outside world that helps you stay in touch with family and friends.

But it can also be a means for scammers to get between you and your money through tricks and other deceitful measures.

So, before you answer that call from an unknown number, keep these phone scams in mind. Being aware of these activities can help you keep more money in your wallet and out of the hands of fraudsters.

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Callback scams

Elnur/Adobe male scammer scamming people on call

You may receive a voicemail from a company or organization telling you to call them back immediately to resolve an issue. Before you return the call, do some research. 

If the caller claims to be from a company you recognize, call that company directly and ask if the call is legitimate. If you don’t recognize the company, just ignore the call and delete the voicemail.

Juice-jacking scams

patpitchaya/Adobe charging phone on table via usb

In this scam, crooks go to public places — such as airports and hotels — and insert malware into charging stations. 

When you go to charge your phone at one of these stations, the scammer can load malware onto your phone. To avoid this, steer clear and use your cables for charging.

Fake customer support calls

Halfpoint/Adobe handicapped woman working at home office

You might get a call from someone pretending to be with a reputable company — such as Microsoft or Apple — saying there is an issue with your phone or computer. The caller may then offer to fix the problem for a fee.

In reality, reputable companies will not call you unsolicited to fix an issue that you haven’t reported.

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Gift card scams

nuiiko/Adobe woman with card calling bank assistance

You may get a call from a scammer trying to sell you something and insisting you purchase it with gift cards.

These fraudsters may ask you to go to a local store and get a prepaid Visa gift card or a gift card to a specific store, such as Target or Amazon.

Scammers use this technique because a gift card is harder to track than a typical credit card, and it is easier to steal money from you before you realize it’s a scam.

Phony IRS threats

Rido/Adobe african american man reviewing bills

Have you received an intimidating call from the Internal Revenue Service about your taxes? Chances are it was a scam.

Scammers are preying on your fear of being called by the IRS. These fraudsters will threaten you and pressure you to give them money over the phone.

Hang up and consider contacting the IRS directly about the scam. The IRS says you can also report these scams at the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting page.

False claims that a family member is in peril

InsideCreativeHouse/Adobe man using laptop while taking call

You may love talking about or posting information about your kids or grandkids online, but such activity can be used against you.

Scammers who get that information and your phone number can call and pretend to be a family member or a friend of a family member. They will then tell you that a loved one is in trouble and that they need money immediately. You may be asked to provide your credit card information over the phone.

This scam often targets seniors. If you get a call like this, hang up and call your loved one directly to make sure they are OK.

Fake car warranties

Cookie Studio/Adobe man confused about receiving call

Con artists may call you about your car warranty and warn you that the warranty will expire if you don’t renew quickly with a payment. But this is likely a scam, so don’t fall for it.

‘One ring’ scams

Prostock-studio/Adobe Man on call on laptop

Don’t you hate when you rush to the phone, but the caller hangs up after only one ring?

The call may be coming from a fraudster. Scammers who place “one ring” calls hope you will call them back to find out why someone called you from that number. Once they have you on the line, an attempt to scam you might follow.

Bank fraud scams

nenetus/Adobe stressful woman reviewing bills at home

Just as scammers know you might not think rationally when they impersonate the IRS, they also know you won’t question your bank calling about an issue with your account.

Be wary of anyone calling from your bank asking for account information or passwords. Such behavior is almost certainly part of a scam. Simply hang up.

If you’re still worried, call your bank directly to find out if a real problem exists.

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Password-phishing scams

fizkes/Adobe couple upset about online fraud

Speaking of passwords, you should never give passwords to any of your website accounts to someone who calls you.

Scammers will use any login and password information they get from you to break into your accounts and damage your reputation or credit.

Spoofing scams

fizkes/Adobe upset african american woman on call

Some scammers don’t want you to know they’re calling from another country or state. They will “spoof” the number they are calling from so it appears local.

This can be hard to detect, so your best bet is to avoid picking up your phone if the call is from a number you don’t recognize. If the call is from someone local who wants to get hold of you, they can leave a voicemail.

False threats to place you under arrest

Kawee/Adobe angry asian woman talking on phone

As with other scams, calling to tell you that there’s a warrant for your arrest is a good way for scammers to put you under pressure and make you act quickly instead of logically.

Ask the scammer to name the organization that issued the warrant. Then, hang up and call that organization directly. The odds are good that you'll learn that the original caller was just a scammer trying to scare you.

Bottom line

shurkin_son/Adobe woman giving annoyed expressions on call

It’s important to be aware of these red flags that could help you avoid throwing away money on sneaky phone scams. 

If you think something sounds like a scam, trust your instincts and hang up. If it’s an issue you think needs to be addressed, hang up and find an official number to call that organization directly to confirm it is trying to contact you.

A little hesitation and some research can save you a lot of money.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen

Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.