Security · June 17, 2020

4 Types of Scam Calls to Watch Out For

Have you ever received an email or a phone call from someone saying you've won a financial prize or have an unexpected inheritance coming your way? Sometimes these calls may appear to come from a government official or a lawyer's office. Often, they're located in a different part of the country—or a different country altogether.

How can you identify a scammer?

Scam calls and impostor scams come in many different forms, but they all have one thing in common. A fraudster will pose as someone you trust, asking you to send money for outstanding taxes or fees, or to assist a relative or friend. These phone scams are almost always posed as urgent, because the impostor wants to provoke you to take immediate action before you have time to think through the request or to consult with other people.

Learn how to recognize four common types of scams that today's fraudsters use and what you can do to keep your bank accounts safe.

1 Scammers posing as computer technicians

If someone says they're calling from a well-known tech company, such as Microsoft, Apple or your internet service provider, you might want to think twice before giving them any information. Microsoft and Apple specifically would never call you unless you contacted them with a request first.

Typical signs of fraudsters using this type of phone scam include:

  • Suggesting you have malware or a virus on your computer
  • Requesting remote access to your computer
  • Advising you to purchase virus protection software
  • Requesting your credit card number

Don't share your password or credit card information, and don't give access to your computer. Instead, try calling or emailing your service provider or tech company directly to confirm the call is legitimate.

2 Fake IRS officials

Getting a call from someone who appears to be with the IRS could get you in a panic. IRS impostor scams often include a threat of deportation or legal suits. They may also threaten to revoke your license if you don't pay the taxes with a prepaid debit card, credit card or wire transfer.

These scam calls may seem legitimate, especially if the caller knows your Social Security number and the caller ID shows a Washington, DC, area code. However, the real IRS would never contact you by phone—they only contact you by mail. And they certainly wouldn't request credit card payments by phone. If you get a call like this, just hang up.

3 Callers posing as grandkids

Scam calls targeting the elderly include a scam where the caller poses as a grandchild who desperately needs some money urgently—but they don't want you to tell anyone. The caller might seem to know a lot about you and your family, especially if this information has been shared on social media.

In this situation, you could check if it really is your grandchild calling. Just hang up and call your grandchild directly, or confirm their phone number with another family member.

4 Phony online relationships

The rise of online dating has led to a new set of impostor scams—calls and online requests for financial help from a new long-distance relationship. Whether they say they're working, in the military or in school far away, they might ask for money for travel expenses to visit you or to cover an urgent situation like a medical emergency. Protect your finances and avoid sending money to anyone you meet online.

Know what to watch for

Today's criminals depend on scam calls and impostor scams to prey on unsuspecting individuals and steal their money. Learning to recognize the signs of a scam call can help protect you and your money from a social engineering attack.

In general:

  1. Whenever someone you don't know calls, texts or emails you with an urgent request, be extremely suspicious.
  2. Don't provide your personal information to anyone who calls you unsolicited and asks for it.
  3. Never trust Caller ID. Cybercriminals can easily make their calls look like they're coming from legitimate government agencies, businesses or healthcare facilities.
  4. Never allow a caller to take remote control of your computer or download software.

Where can I report scam calls?

You can also help others by reporting scam calls to the Federal Trade Commission online at or by calling 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357).


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This information is provided for educational purposes only and should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal or tax advice. First Citizens Bank (or its affiliates) neither endorses nor guarantees this information, and encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation.

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