The FCC scam glossary describes robocall scams, spoofing scams and related consumer fraud, which the FCC tracks through complaints filed by consumers, news reports, and notices from other government agencies, consumer groups and industry sources. Glossary entries include links to more detailed information posted in the Consumer Help Center and to trusted external sources.


# | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | R | S | T | U | V | W
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809 Scam
A scammer leaves an urgent voicemail and a call-back number with an 809 area code. While it appears to be a three-digit U.S. area code, it's actually an international number. If you call, you'll be charged international rates while the person answering tries to keep you on the line as long as possible. Similar to the "One Ring" Scam.

 

90# Scam
Someone impersonating a telephone company employee calls your landline phone and asks you to dial 90# to connect to an outside line. This enables them to bill their calls to your account.

 

A
Appliance Repair Scams
(Better Business Bureau)
Scammers post fake customer-service numbers that show up in web search engine results. When you call, a "representative" ask for your personal info and a deposit. But instead of fixing your appliance, they steal your money and sell or keep your personal info for future scams.

 

Auto Warranty Scam
A scammer calls you with a sales pitch for renewing your auto warranty or insurance policy. The scammer may have acquired information about your car and its existing warranty to make the offer seem more credible.

 

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B
Back-to-School-Scams
Calls or messages to college students may offer what seem to be official scholarships, house rentals, roommate arrangements, loans or tech support, with the aim of maliciously acquiring sensitive information or money.

 

Banking/Credit Card Scams
(USA.gov)
Scammers sometimes pose as bank or credit card representatives calling about an unauthorized withdrawal from your account or suspicious use of your card. They may spoof the number of your bank to fool you, then ask you to confirm your account info, password or security information to steal your money.

 

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C
"Can You Hear Me" Scam
Scammers open by asking a yes-or-no question, such as: "Can you hear me?" or "Is this X?" Their goal is to record you saying "yes" in response. They then may use that recording to authorize charges over the phone.

 

Catfishing/Online Dating Scams
(FBI)
Catfishers create fake identities on dating apps and social media to coax you into fake online relationships. They often quickly move to personal channels such as phone or email, using your trust to acquire money or personal info, or help you hide their criminal activities. You'll probably never meet them in person.

 

Cellphone Cloning
Scammers illegally monitor radio wave transmissions to intercept unique identifying numbers that cell phones transmit. They then modify their own phones to broadcast these numbers, cloning the legitimate phone ID, so their calls and data use are charged to the cloned account.

 

Cellphone Subscriber Fraud
If scammers already have some of your personal information, they may use it to sign up for cell phone service in your name. That way, while they make the calls, you pay the bill.

 

Charity Scams
Scammers call asking for charitable donations, often after large-scale disasters. They may make up phony charities or spoof a real charity to trick you out of your money.

 

Chinese Consulate Scam
Scammers, speaking Mandarin, pose as Chinese consulate employees. They may request money for a family member who they say is in trouble or ask for personal information for a parcel delivery. Sometimes they claim the call is related to a criminal investigation.

 

Collect Call Dialing Scam
By buying up toll-free numbers a few digits away from well-known carriers, some companies try to profit from collect call misdials. They often charge higher fees than the carrier you intended to use.

 

Cramming
Cramming is when phone companies or third-party billing companies place misleading, unauthorized, deceptive or poorly explained charges on a phone bill.

 

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D
Department of Homeland Security Scam (DHS.gov)
Scammers spoofing the DHS number call people to falsely claim that they are victims of identity theft or, in a variation, to threaten arrest. The scammers request payment or personal information to resolve the issue.

 

Disaster Relief Scam
After disasters, some callers may impersonate charities, seeking disaster aid. Before giving money, verify that you're talking with a real charity.

 

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E
Email/Phishing Scams
(Federal Trade Commission)
Scammers often use email "phishing" to hook unsuspecting fraud victims. Treat all unsolicited email and spam as suspicious: Do not open or reply. To avoid loading malicious software onto your computer or device, never click a link – even from a trusted source – unless you've verified its authenticity. Be especially wary of emails asking for emergency funds or help from friends, family and colleagues. Their email accounts may have been hacked. Scammers will also pretend to be government agencies in scam emails.

 

Employment Scam
(Better Business Bureau)
Bogus job postings, recruitment emails and online ads - often illegally using legitimate company names – are all tools scammers use to defraud people seeking employment. Always be suspicious of quick offers with high salaries or pre-payment requests for coaching, training or certifications, and never share personal information until you're certain a job posting is legitimate. Many employment scams also offer advanced payment for supplies. These checks will often bounce, costing you money.

 

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F
FBI Arrest Scam
(FBI.gov)
Scammers spoof FBI field office numbers and call claiming that they have a warrant for your arrest. They then demand payment to rescind the warrant. An alternate version of this scam threatens international students with deportation.

 

Free Trial Scams
(Federal Trade Commission)
Free-trial product offers you receive over the phone may be too good to be true. You may be asked to pay a small fee by credit card, which can lead to other unwanted fraudulent charges, or you may be unable to cancel after the trial runs out, forcing you to pay for the product in question.

 

Flood Insurance Scam
After floods, scammers may target hard hit areas with fake calls about flood insurance to steal private information or money. They may spoof a legitimate flood insurance company to appear more convincing.

 

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G
Gift Card Scams
(Federal Trade Commission)
A telltale sign of phone scams is if the caller asks you to make a payment with a gift card. Many scammers prefer this non-refundable and hard to trace form of payment.

 

Google Listing Scams
(Federal Trade Commission)
Some scammers claim that they can add or remove you or your business from Google searches or similar services. These callers, unaffiliated with Google, seek payment for services they can't deliver.

 

Government Grant Scam
(Federal Trade Commission)
Scammers claim that you are eligible for a government grant and offer to forward it to your checking account as soon as you give them your account information, which they sell or use to steal your money. The scammer may spoof the number of the government agency they claim to be representing.

 

Grandparent/Family Emergency Scam
Scammers sometimes prey on grandparents by claiming their family members are in jail or in trouble and need money quickly. They use stolen personal information such as family member names and hometowns to seem more convincing.

 

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H
Health Insurance Scam
Scammers call peddling phony health care coverage at discounted rates. Callers sometimes use spoofing to impersonate government officials or insurance companies. Often the products they sell are medical discount cards that end up not being accepted anywhere. While fraudulent solicitations occur year-round, be especially vigilant during open enrollment season.

 

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I
Identity Theft Scams
(USA.gov)
Callers posing as government officials, often from the Social Security Administration, claim that you've been a victim of identity theft. These scammers ask for personal information or payment of some kind, or access to your bank account.

 

Imposter Scam
(Federal Trade Commission)
A caller poses as someone you know or trust in order to obtain money or personal information. They often spoof a legitimate caller's number to appear more realistic.

 

Investment Scams
(Securities and Exchange Commission)
When a caller claims to have a promising investment opportunity that will help you get rich quick, it's likely a scam.

 

IRS Call Scam
Scammers sometimes pose as IRS agents, threatening legal action and demanding money or personal information over the phone. To appear legitimate, imposters may attempt to spoof an IRS number.

 

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J
Jury Duty Scams
(U.S. District Court, Washington D.C.)
Callers pose as local law enforcement, claiming they have a warrant for your arrest because you missed jury duty. They may instruct you to pay a fine by wiring money or using gift cards.

 

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K
Kidnapping Scams
(National Institutes of Health)
Scammers may call you claiming to have kidnapped family members. They often use stolen information and spoof the family member's phone to make the scenario seem more realistic

 

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L
Lottery/Sweepstakes Scams
(Federal Trade Commission)
These scams involve someone claiming you won a prize. However, they say you must pay a fee or provide sensitive banking information in order to get it. They keep the money, and you get nothing for it.

 

Low Power FM Radio Scam
LPFM Radio applicants may receive phone calls or messages offering to help with the application process or prompting them to buy a "Part 15" device for a fee. Their expertise or expensive devices aren't needed. The FCC authorizes all licenses for LPFM radio stations.

 

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M
Medical Device Scams
(Health and Human Services)
Calls or ads offering free services or medical devices purportedly covered by Medicare – such as an orthopedic back, neck or knee brace – are mostly likely scams. If you don't need or qualify for such devices or services, either you or Medicare gets bilked. This scam is often just a ruse to steal your Medicare account info.

 

Medicare Card Scam
With the rollout of new Medicare cards, scammers may pose as Medicare representatives who say they need payment or personal info before the cards can be issued. They may also ask for the number on your new Medicare card in order to activate it.

 

Mexico Collect Call Scam
Operators say you have a collect call from a family member in Mexico, sometimes even providing the family member's name. You accept the call, but it's from a stranger who offers no information about family members. You end up being billed regardless.

 

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N
Nanny/Care Giver Scam
(Federal Trade Commission)
Sometimes scammers post fake job listings for nannies or care givers. They offer a job but ask you to buy supplies or other equipment upfront. They may send you a post-dated check and ask you to purchase gift cards or transfer money to a vendor. The check inevitably bounces.

 

Neighbor Spoofing
Scammers spoof caller ID information that displays the same initial digits as your own phone number (usually the first six), making it seem like someone else with a local number is trying to reach you.

 

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O
One Ring/Wangiri Scam
When your phone rings only once, late at night, you may be tempted to call back. But the call may be from a foreign country with an area code that looks deceptively like it's in the U.S. If you dial back, international calling fees may wind up on your bill. Such cons are also known by the Japanese term "Wangiri."

 

Online Dating Scams/Catfishing
(FBI)
Catfishers create fake identities on dating apps and social media to coax you into fake online relationships. They often move quickly to personal channels such as phone or email, using your trust to acquire money or personal info, or help you hide their criminal activities. You'll probably never meet them in person.

 

Open Enrollment Scams
During the yearly health-care open enrollment season, scam callers may offer fake insurance plans to swindle you out of money. They may spoof a legitimate insurance company's phone number so you'll think the call is authentic.

 

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P
Phishing/Email Scams
(Federal Trade Commission)
Scammers often use email "phishing" to hook unsuspecting fraud victims. Treat all unsolicited email and spam as suspicious: Do not open or reply. To avoid loading malicious software onto your computer or device, never click a link – even from a trusted source – unless you've verified its authenticity. Be especially wary of emails asking for emergency funds or help from friends, family and colleagues. Their email accounts may have been hacked. Scammers will also pretend to be government agencies in scam emails.

 

Porting
(Better Business Bureau)
A scammer gets your name and phone number, then gathers other identifiable information that can be used for identity theft. Pretending to be you, they then contact your mobile provider to report your phone as stolen or lost, and ask for the number to be "ported" to another provider and device. They can use your number to gain access to your financial accounts and other services with two-factor authentication enabled.

 

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R
Recovery Scams
(Federal Trade Commission)
If you've already fallen for a scam, another scammer may call you and offer to get you your money back for a fee. Their goal is to double dip and steal more of your money.

 

Romance Scam
(Federal Trade Commission)
Romance scammers contact you through dating apps or social media to try to establish a romantic relationship with you in order to access your money or personal information. Scammers use fake identities and back stories to gain your trust.

 

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S
Slamming
Slamming is when a phone company illegally switches you from your existing phone service company to their own service without your permission, then bills you for service you did not request.

 

Smishing
Short for "SMS phishing," smishing often involves text messages claiming to be from your bank or another company. The message displays a phone number to call or a link to click, giving scammers the chance to trick you out of money or personal information.

 

Social Security Number Scam
Scammers may pose as government officials, often from the Social Security Administration, to request your Social Security Number or a payment of some sort. Sometimes, they claim your SSN is suspended. The call may spoof what appears to be a legitimate Social Security Administration number.

 

Spoofing
Spoofing occurs when a caller maliciously transmits false caller ID information to increase the likelihood that you'll answer. Scammers often spoof local numbers, private companies, government agencies and other institutions.

 

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T
Tech Support Scams
Phone scammers may masquerade as tech support employees for a major company in order to take your money or install a virus on your computer. They may call from what seem to be legitimate company numbers using caller ID spoofing.

 

Two Factor Authentication Scams
(Federal Trade Commission)
Scammers call your carrier, asking them to port your number to their phone. They then use two factor authentication via text message to access personal and financial accounts, resetting your passwords and taking over the accounts.

 

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U
Utility Scams
Scammers posing as utility company employees warn that they need payment quickly, often with a pre-paid card, or else your service will be turned off. Businesses run by native Spanish speakers have also been targeted by this scam.

 

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V
Veteran Benefits Scam
These scams involve callers claiming that veterans are eligible for new benefits, often relating to home loans, to acquire personal and financial information. The caller may even spoof a legitimate benefits organization.

 

Voicemail Hacking Scam
Hackers guess default voicemail passwords (like "1234") and change voicemail greetings on phones to verbally accept collect call charges. They then use the phone to make international calls, costing you money.

 

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W
Wangiri/One Ring Scam
When your phone rings only once, late at night, you may be tempted to call back. But the call may be from a foreign country with an area code that looks deceptively like it's in the U.S. If you dial back, international calling fees may wind up on your bill. Such cons are known by the Japanese term "Wangiri."

 

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Updated: 
Monday, August 12, 2019