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Whether we’re staying home or venturing out, having a mobile phone close-at-hand has become essential.

Big tech companies and app makers know this. They cleverly design their products to trigger our brain’s reward systems by sending notifications, prompts, and even emails to remind us to check back in to avoid FOMO (fear of missing out).

The temptation to click on emails, apps, and the internet makes us more likely to tap on notifications without a second’s thought. It usually doesn’t matter because we know and trust the app or person causing the prompt.

But sometimes, this automatic response can create problems, especially when we instinctively answer the phone without checking the caller’s details first. Then, we leave ourselves open to scammers.

So, how do we fix this problem? Read on to learn about a free, convenient solution right on the palm of your hand (if you’re reading this on your phone!).

An example of how to check for scammers: is 08456021111 a real number?

Thankfully, there are various ways we can avoid scammers. One of the easiest is to check a phone number online before responding. Websites like make this free and easy. For example, a quick search of the number above shows that more than 1 million people have looked it up so far. It appears to be a “genuine phone number used by BT Audio Text”, but that “our community has rated it as a dangerous caller”. Users say that the number is also used by other companies, so it is possible that it has been cloned. Our advice: use caution if you get a call from this number!

What kinds of spam should we look out for?

Scammers use various spam phone call methods. These range from silent or missed calls, where the recipient is tricked into calling back using an expensive international phone number, to bogus tech support calls, where scammers get access to their victim’s computer to find banking, personal, and other information.

Text message scams can include texts from an unknown number but with a familiar name. The recipient is charged a premium rate when they reply. The longer the exchange goes on, the more money it costs.

Some even use ring tone scams, where mobile phone users are tempted by a “free” or low-cost ring tone. When they get the ring tone, they unwittingly subscribe to a premium rate service that keeps sending ring tones at a high cost.

Create your own ringtone for free with our guide instead!

Why spam calls matter

There is no doubt that spam calls and texts are a nuisance. Billions of them plague UK phone users every year. But it does not appear that there is much that Ofcom, the Information Commissioners’ Office, or anyone else can do about it. This is because many of the calls come from outside the UK, where they are less likely to be regulated and controlled.

Those making these calls and texts have one intention: to get unsuspecting people to part with their money.

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