What do you do after noticing that you’ve missed a phone call from an unknown number? Do you just ignore it? Or does your curiosity get the better of you and force you to call them back?
If you’re one of the brave souls who calls back unrecognized phone numbers without searching them on Spokeo first, you may be walking right into a phone scammer’s trap.
Scam calls are a growing problem in the US. Criminals defraud unsuspecting phone owners by manipulating them to call back unknown numbers. A recent TrueCaller report states that in the US alone, Americans collectively receive up to 4 million scam calls every hour.
Luckily for us moral, upstanding citizens there are a few common scam-related signs to be aware of, including the area code the scammer calls from. Here’s what you know about phone scams to stay safe and secure.
Common Phone Scams
Phone scams are often designed to take advantage of your curiosity. Scammers employ a number of different tactics to lure you into their scheme. Generally speaking, their goal is to trick you into making an outbound call to an expensive international toll number.
The ‘One Ring’ Phone Scam
In this scam, the perpetrator dials their target and hangs up just before the call is answered.
These “one-ring” phone scammers intentionally end the outbound call immediately after the first ring. They usually use a robocall autodialer or internet phone that can supply falsified caller ID information to make the number appear legitimate to prevent suspicion on the part of the victim.
The scammer may leave more than one missed call so that the victim assumes someone they know is trying urgently to reach them. Because telemarketers and phone spammers typically do not call more than once, potential targets tend to call back a number who has called them repeatedly.
If you see a series of missed calls from one phone number you do not recognize, run a reverse phone lookup in order to search for the owner’s identity before you return the call.
The ‘Ring and Run’ Phone Scam
In this version, the scammer calls the victim and waits on the line until the phone is answered.
Once the unsuspecting individual picks up, the scammer pretends to be a representative of an organization or business with a time-sensitive message for the victim. The fraudsters often pretend to work for a collection agency, a doctor’s office, a bail bondsman or a number of other different charades.
When the call is answered, the scammer begins telling a fictitious story. This story is designed to capture the victim’s interest before suddenly hanging up or requesting a call back. This naturally evokes both curiosity and a sense of urgency, motivating the victim to call back in order to hear the rest of the caller’s message.
Thanks to these types of scam calls, Americans lost close to $10.58 billion in 2019 as reported by TrueCaller.
Phone Scams & Area Codes
The main reason scam calls are so successful is the introduction of digital telephone services that allow scammers to clone existing area code prefixes. This enables them to make outbound calls from phone numbers with any area codes of their choosing, regardless of the scammers physical location.
These cloned scam area codes fool victims into thinking they are calling a US area code when in actual sense the number dialed is usually a premium number that connects outside the USA and calling back results in unsuspecting victims being charged anywhere between $5 and $30 per minute.
Research shows that by the end of the year 2019, more than 90% of scam calls in the US will be using local area codes to fool phone users. This means that having a knowledge of the area codes commonly used in scams is more important than ever.
What is an area code?
An area code, also known as a dialing code, refers to the sequence of 3 numbers dialed before the 7-digit main phone number to connect a call to exchange in another area or country.
How do area codes work?
The United States is divided into regions, known as area codes that corresponds with telephone dialing areas. Depending on population, some states may have just one area code while others have many (California leads the way with 36).
Area codes are used to identify the designated origin of a call. When combined with the 7-digit main phone number, the complete number represents a geographical address through which the call is routed using the telephone network.
Is This Phone Number a Scammer?
If you find a missed call or have an incoming call from an unknown number, it’s possible to find out the origin of the phone number through Spokeo. Don’t just call them back — simply type the unknown number into the Spokeo’s reverse phone lookup service and see what further information is provided.
Your search may shed light on the phone owner’s name, age, social profiles and so much more. To get more information about your unknown caller, you can run another search on Spokeo using the names provided.
Spokeo provides a fast, easy way to identify phone area codes. It’s easy to find out if the missed call or incoming call originated from area codes associated with scams.
Area Codes You Should Never Answer
To help you avoid falling prey to phone fraud, here’s a comprehensive list of area codes in the USA commonly used for scam calls. We recommend that you let incoming calls from these area codes go to voicemail and running a phone number lookup to see if they’re actually a legitimate caller.
Area Code 954 Scams
- This is the area code for Broward County in the state of Florida
- In 2018 users of this area code recorded an average of 31 robocalls per person, which was double the national average number of robocalls received per person in the US
855 Area Code Scam
- The scam area code is a clone of the real 855 toll-free prefixes
- Calls from this prefix are often fake computer tech support, debt collection services, and company representatives
Area Code 484 Scams
- This is the area code for eastern and southern Pennsylvania
Area Code 832 Scams
- This is the area code for Houston and its surrounding areas in Texas
360 Area Code Spam Calls
- This is the area code for the western part of Washington state outside metropolitan Seattle
- Statistics show that this scam area code is commonly used by criminals pretending to be the IRS and calling concerning tax
Area Code 321 Spam
- This is the area code for Sanford, Orlando, Pine Hills, Alafaya and Kissimmee in Florida
- It ranks highly among area codes used by spam callers
Area Code 716 Scams
- This is the area code for the western part of New York state
Area Code 740 Scams
- This is the area code for Newark, Lancaster, and Marion in Ohio
Area Code 813 Scams
- This is the area code for the counties of Hillsborough and Pasco in Florida
407 Area Code Scam
- This is the area code for Sanford, Orlando, Pine Hills, Alafaya and Kissimmee in Florida
Area Code 888 Scams
- A cloned variation of this toll-free prefix is most commonly used in the “one-ring” phone scam
Area Code 866 Scams
- This scam area code is a clone of the real 866 toll-free prefixes to fool victims into dialing internationally into Jamaica
Area Code 313 Scams
- This is the area code for the city of Detroit and its surrounding areas in Michigan
Area Code 469 Scams
- This is the area code for Dallas and its surrounding areas in Texas
Area Code 503 Scams
- This is the area code for the northwestern part of Oregon
- It includes Gresham, Portland, Hillsboro Salem, and Beaverton
Area Code 614 Scams
- This is the area code for Columbus and surrounding areas in Ohio
Area Code 757 Scams
- This is the area code for the eastern part of Virginia
- It covers Portsmouth, Suffolk, Newport, and Suffolk
Area Code 877 Scams
- This is a cloned toll-free prefix which directs callers to international numbers that result in high charges
Area Code 205 Scams
- This is the area code for Hoover, Birmingham, and Tuscaloosa in Alabama
Area Code 650 Scams
- This is the area code for the counties of San Mateo and Santa Clara in California
It’s important to also remember that these area codes listed above are all legitimate US phone area codes. However, they have become notorious due to their consistent usage by scammers.
Is This Phone Number Safe?
If you receive a call from an unknown number, especially one from the top 20 scam area codes, you should take the following precautions:
- Don’t answer the call, return the call, or reply to any messages sent by the unknown number
- If the unknown number is persistent with their calls or messages, file a complaint with the FCC
- Sign up for a scam call protection service if offered by your network carrier to notify you when a call is likely to be a scam or spam call
Scam callers won’t stop using scam area codes to find their next victim anytime soon. They’ll find smarter ways to use the US area code list to their advantage. To protect yourself from falling prey to phone-related frauds, it’s crucial to always obtain information about unknown callers using Spokeo’s reverse phone lookup service.
Spokeo gives you access to an extensive directory of public records, white page listings and social network information that has been organized into simple profiles. This allowing you to get the name, address, and location of your reverse call if available. By using Spokeo, you can safely research and reconnect with missed callers without exposing yourself to phone scammers.