Think You Can Recognize a Phone Scammer? Think Again

phone scams
Image via Benchmark Federal Credit Union.
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Phone scams are on the rise, with billions of robocalls targeting U.S. citizens each month. An estimated one in three Americans admit they’ve fallen victim to a phone scam in the past year. The numbers are staggering and can lead to significant losses to those who fall prey.

From your financial partners at Benchmark Federal Credit Union, here are seven ways to recognize a phone scammer.

They Contact You

Unsolicited calls requesting payment or personal information are typically scams. Many people get duped because scammers have begun using familiar phone numbers to look like more legitimate calls. This includes calls looking like they are from someone in your neighborhood or area code.

On the flip side, if it’s a number with an area code you don’t recognize, it can also be a scam.

The Better Business Bureau warns that there are locations outside the U.S. where telephone numbers actually look like domestic long-distance numbers. For example, 809 and 284 are area codes in the Caribbean.

Delayed Greetings

I know I get one or two of these delayed greeting calls every day. If the caller does not respond right away, they are probably using an automatic dialer and it’s possible it is some type of scam. Don’t be afraid to hang up on such calls. If someone legitimate really wants to speak to you, they’ll call back and leave a voicemail.

Requests for Personal Information

Any time that anyone you did not contact asks for your personal information such as a social security number, financial or credit card account information, it’s probably a phone scammer.

As an executive at a federal credit union, I can tell you that no reputable financial institution will ever call you, send you a text or ask you to click on a link to verify information. It is a violation of very strict privacy policies. Instead, financial institutions like Benchmark Federal Credit Union will leave you a recorded message asking you to call us at your convenience. Check to be sure the phone number on the message matches the one you’ve always used for your financial institution, then call them back.

You’re Told There’s a Problem with Your Account

This might include a caller contacting you regarding a problem with your social security number, or perhaps an unknown account. Fraudsters often pretend to be from a business, a bank or credit union, or even a government agency.

If a caller says there is a problem with your social security number or account or requests that you pay a fine, do not take the bait. Government employees and financial institutions will never call and request money like this.

Money Requests

Believe it or not, people actually fall victim to this scam and send money for the promise of a prize or something else of value. Certain phone scammers will request an upfront fee for something. They’ll request that you wire the money or send gift cards.

If someone asks you to do this, hang up. This is a scam.

Prize Promises That Are Too Good to Be True

If someone calls and says you won a big cash prize, a trip or another large prize, it’s probably a scam. This is especially true when it’s a prize for a drawing you can’t even remember entering. The caller may even pressure you into acting fast before you miss out.

There’s no reason to decide anything while you’re on the phone. The only thing you might be missing out on is a scam.

Threats and Intimidation

A scammer might become intimidating and irritable, especially if the call is not going his or her way. That’s a big red flag that something is wrong. Just hang up. It’s a scam.

Common phone scams to watch for:

  • Imposter scams
  • Loan scams
  • Debt relief scams
  • Investment scams
  • Prize and lottery scams
  • Travel scams
  • Charity scams
  • Extended vehicle warranty scams

If you suspect a phone scam regarding your finances, bank or credit union accounts, be sure to call your financial institution to inquire about it. At Benchmark Federal Credit Union, we take the protection of our members’ accounts & personal data as a top priority and can employ further security measures to help protect threatened accounts. Be sure to report phone scams to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online or by calling them at 1-877-382-4357. In Pennsylvania, you can contact the State Consumer Protection Offices for assistance with a phone scammer. Finally, contact your phone company for call blocking tools and apps that allow you to block illegal and unwanted calls.


Rebecca Worthington is the Vice President of Community Relations at Benchmark Federal Credit Union. The only federal credit union to exclusively serve Chester County, Benchmark was named Business of the Year by the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce. For more information on protecting your financial well-being, visit