Thwart Smartphone Scams

We’ve all seen an attempted scam appear on our smartphones. It could be an unsolicited call from a fake IRS agent or a text message offering an extreme discount on a hot product. Regardless of how it takes shape, the convenient electronic devices that we keep in our pockets virtually all the time remain a lucrative source of scam-fueled income for criminals.

Many individuals have fallen victim to this type of fraud, with almost 1 in 3 Americans reporting they have succumbed to a phone scam over the last year. And total losses from these incidents are up to nearly $30 billion over the last year, marking another alarming record. With so much money being stolen, it’s no surprise that thieves will continue to target smartphone users.

Let’s dive into some tips, tricks, and general knowledge that you can use to your advantage against these phone fraudsters.

Spam Calls

Spam calls are a tried-and-true method for scamming, and sales calls have existed nearly as long as the telephone itself. While a typical telemarketing call doesn’t fall directly into the scam category, there are slight deviations from it that certainly do.

If you think that spam calls occur more frequently than they used to, you’re right. The rise of new technologies has allowed scammers to automate the process, and robocalls from a single host computer can dial thousands of people per hour. Live caller scams still exist as well, and these are typically known as imposter scams where a human caller pretends to be someone they are not in order to defraud the call recipient at the other end of the line.

No matter if it’s a robot or human caller, the end game is the same which is to either trick or convince you into divulging personal information or to get your money. Despite these scam attempts being common knowledge, they are still effective and widespread.

How to Address Spam Calls

There are currently several options that you can use to limit the number of spam calls that you receive. While it’s challenging to stop them outright, taking advantage of technologies and defenses designed specifically for this purpose is recommended for everyone.

A good first step is joining the National Do Not Call Registry created by the FTC. This consumer-focused service was created to limit the number of business and sales calls you receive and serves to reduce robocalls and scammers. It’s not going to prevent every call but think of it as a good perimeter defense to filter out initial threats.

Your cell phone provider should also have an app available that is designed to block spam calls. Some companies provide this service without any action needed on your part and note potential spam calls on caller ID. Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T all have various versions of a spam blocking app – just be sure to sign up for the free version as these providers will try to upsell you a paid version that doesn’t necessarily do a better job of blocking calls. Again, this won’t stop every single spam call, but it can greatly reduce their frequency – which limits the chances of falling victim to fraud.


Smishing, also known as scam texts, is another very common avenue for phone fraud. Virtually everyone with a smartphone has seen some random offer, discount, or reward offered via text message. The goal of these scams is the same as their call-based cousins – to steal personal information to commit identity theft or to rob your hard-earned money outright. This type of fraud is effective, with over $86 million in losses directly from text-based scams, according to the FTC.

Smishing has become so rampant in part because threat actors have access to nearly every single phone number, and that’s all they need in order to send a fraudulent text. Data breaches, online orders, and even you simply calling a toll-free number can make your number public, and therefore easily available to criminals.

How to Address Smishing Texts

Technically, smishing texts are illegal under federal law. But that hasn’t slowed them down, and fraudulent messages are an everyday occurrence. If you’ve received an uptick of phony texts during the holiday season, you see that fact on full display.

Getting on the National Do Not Call registry is once again recommended to help reduce authentic solicitations. Once on this list, you can believe that any marketing or other offer received by text message is more than likely a scam. You should also report any scam texts you get to the FTC to help flag the sender and prevent future fraud.

And, almost most importantly, don’t respond or engage with any text you suspect as being fraudulent. Ignore them, block the number, and don’t be baited into clicking on links, providing personal information, or sharing anything else with the scammer.

Emotional Triggers Break Down Defenses

Even with knowledge of these phone-based scams and you putting your number on the do-not-call list, people still fall victim to fake calls and texts daily. It’s important to understand that criminals often employ emotional triggers to break down your personal defenses. You might receive an offer for a free product that makes you immediately joyous. You might get a call from a fake IRS agent that sends financial fear down your spine. Either way, these highs and lows of emotion are tactics thieves use to trigger you to react.

Always stay skeptical and realize that if something seems too good or too bad to be true, it’s more than likely a scam. Nearly all of us will experience identity theft and fraud at some point, and your phone is a probable avenue for that to happen.

All of this doesn’t mean that you need to live in fear of every message and phone call. But it is important to recognize that even with understanding, awareness, and new technologies, threat actors will continue in their attempts to trick you. Identifying emotional triggers and other ploys these criminals use for phone scams will make you a more aware consumer and reduce your profile for being an easy target.

LibertyID provides expert, full service, fully managed identity theft restoration to individuals, couples, extended families* and businesses. LibertyID has a 100% success rate in resolving all forms of identity fraud on behalf of our subscribers.

*LibertyID defines an extended family as: you, your spouse/partner, your parents and parents-in-law, and your children under the age of 25.