Finding Cell Phone Numbers

Running a reverse cell phone search

 

People rarely use phone books but still need access to phone numbers. Most people use cell phones and don’t have an easy way to find numbers. You could lose your contact list or need to find the number of someone new; this is not an easy task. You might have found a phone number with no name next to it, which is just as frustrating. Online services offer information, but it’s rarely free. If a site claims that they offer a free search, you might be required to pay for the results.

Reasons to Search for a Number

There are many reasons people search for cell phone numbers. The person may have given you the number but you wrote it down wrong; the number got lost; there’s no name attached; your phone contacts got deleted or your phone was stolen; you may want to find a family member or old friend whose number has been changed.

Retrieving Phone Numbers

You’ve lost the contact list on your phone and need to retrieve the numbers. Users can check their phone accounts for backups, look through text messages or phone calls, or post the problem on social media. You might search cell phone numbers by the person’s name or wait for people to call you.

Online Searches

You can find reliable services to look up a person’s cell phone number. Services that have free lookups include Zaba Search, Callersmart, and Kiwi Searches. Apps help people to search for phone numbers by name or through a phone number lookup app. If you use a premium paid search, you can check company reviews before buying the information. Some companies have free trials or discounts so you don’t have to buy a full membership.

Name Search

There are several ways to do a search. You can search the person’s name. If it’s a common name, add as much information as possible to get accurate results. The search might show a list of people with the same name. You can choose the right person by the address, age, occupation or family members and associates.

Reverse Phone Search

You find a piece of paper with a phone number written on it but no name. Calling the number could be embarrassing if it’s a potential boss or date you’d rather forget. Use a search app or program that you’d use to search for a person by name. This time, type in the phone number you want to search. Cell phone numbers are harder to get since they change so often. Plus, some companies will charge for the search results.

TMI?

Savvy people get access to our personal information every day. People want to everything about us. Search engines are able to give out a great deal of personal information including work history, education, social media profiles, criminal and arrest records, bankruptcy and court information.

Sensitive Information

Although almost anyone can access our sensitive information, many sites require you to sign a statement saying you won’t use the information against a person, especially in business. It’s illegal to use search information to deny someone a job. While searching for a phone number may seem harmless, we have to take steps to protect the rest of our information. Hackers and scammers are ruthless when it comes to stealing identities and gaining access to our accounts.

Computer Scams

Computer scams come in all forms

Computer scams are more common than ever before. Scammers send millions of emails every day, pretending to be from tech support, a government office, or insurance company. They promise to send lottery winnings, offers that are too good to be true, or sales on products that will never arrive once ordered. Scammers can take advantage of people even if the target doesn’t take the bait. Thieves send emails that contain malware, spyware or viruses that infect the computer when they are opened. Users can’t detect infect files so they are unaware has been breached. Scammers contact targets through phone calls, text messages, email, and pop up ads. If you receive calls or texts from someone you don’t know, you can use a caller ID app for iPhone to identify it.

Feeding on Fear

Scammers can feed on a consumers’ fear by alerting them to security breaches, viruses, or useless software programs for malware and spyware. The target buys the product, worried about stolen identity or worse. The scammer steals the person’s information and credit card or bank account info and disappears.

Computer Tech Support 

You receive a call from someone claiming to be from computer tech support from a real company like Microsoft or Apple. The caller says there is a problem with your computer, e.g., a virus or damaged memory. The scammer offers to fix the problem for a small fee. You are asked to wire money or pay with a gift card. They ask for those because it is almost impossible to trace or get your money back. They offer to run a scan if you give them access. If you agree, the scammer pretends to run a scan on your computer and then tells you about a problem that isn’t real. The Federal Trade Commission has recorded one of the calls made by a computer tech support fraudster. The FTC has posted a  recorded call from a scammer: You can listen here.

Online Shopping

The person or company offers products at a low rate. The scammer takes the money but they never arrive. The company refuses to give a refund.

How to Spot the Scam

Con artists can trick people out of money in many different ways. Here are some common consumer scams.

Phone Calls

Scammers make thousands if not hundreds of thousands of random phone calls every day. There is no limit to the stories they will tell. Legitimate companies do not call to ask for payment for tech support or alert you to a government issue. If you do receive a call, use a reverse phone search to look up the number that called you. You should write it down so it can be reported to the authorities.

Improve Security

Thieves love weak passwords. Change passwords often or create a password using a password generator to improve your computer’s security.

Reporting a Scam

Consumers neglect to report scams because they are embarrassed or they may not know that they’ve been scammed. If you think you’ve been scammed, report it online to the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant.

 

Reporting Phone Scams: What To Do If You’ve Been Targeted

Credit Card Scammer

Scammers know how to make up phone numbers, which makes it hard to track them. They call victims from anywhere in the world, but make it appear like the phone number is local. Con artists can use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to fake their caller ID and then use it to trick people into giving them money.

You can avoid many phone scams by using an iPhone number tracer app. If the caller has a real reason to call, he will leave a message. This method also works with telemarketers who ignore the National Do Not Call List.

Scam Types

Con artists create new scams every day. They will say anything to get you to give your personal information or money. The scams involve fake calls from Medicare, Social Security, the IRS, and more. You should check out any suspicious or unusual call before giving out your information or making any payments or donations. Callers asking for money for bills, taxes, or past due debts are usually fake. You should call the company or government organization directly before making any arrangements. Also, government agencies, such as the IRS or Social Security Administration almost never call. They do business through the mail.

Examples of Scams

The caller will try to trick you into agreeing, even if it means asking a simple question such as “Can You Hear Me?” The caller wants you to say “yes.” The question can be changed and used to show that you agreed to the scam. If you must give a positive answer, find another word to agree. This list shows some popular scams:

  • Fake Government Employee. Someone calls saying he is an employee or contract worker from the Social Security office, IRS, or other agency.
  • Kidnapped Relative. The caller asks for ransom money for the return of a kidnapped family member. The scam is also known as the “Grandparent Scam.”
  • Credit Card Services. The scammer says he is from your credit card company and asks for information about suspicious charges or offers lower rates or another service. The caller asks for your social security number or personal information.
  • Unpaid Utility Bills. Someone poses as a utility company worker and threatens to cut off the utility unless the bill is paid immediately.
  • Prizes/lottery winnings. The caller tells the target he has won a lottery or a free vacation.
  • Lower Your Interest Rates. The caller offers low credit card or loan interest rates.
  • Medical Coverage. This scam targets seniors most often. The caller scares the victim into thinking that his medical coverage is insufficient.
  • Tech Support. The caller claims to work for tech support at a major computer company. He reports a serious issue on your system. The “technician” offers to fix the problem for a fee.

Report the Scam

You should always call law enforcement if you get a call that you suspect is a scam. When you call to the non-emergency line, be sure to tell the police the time and date of the call, what the caller said, and any actions you may have taken, including recording the call. You can also screen or block calls to further protect  yourself.

What is VoIP?

VoIP

Voice Over Internet Protocol, aka VoIP, is a method by which voice and multimedia sessions take place over the Internet rather than through a traditional phone service. Users also refer to VoIP as Internet telephony, broadband telephony, or broadband phone service, a service that is not new, but has been gaining popularity. Unlike plain old telephone service (POTS), VoIP does not need a service plan or a static telephone number. Anyone can use the system for free, from anywhere in the world.

Pros and Cons of VoIP

There are several pros and cons to using a VoIP phone number. The pros include being able to choose your own phone number, with any area code. People use VoIP for many reasons. The pros can be positive or negative in that the caller’s identity is usually blocked or unavailable. Users may opt to be anonymous for various reasons including personal or professional privacy or for developing targeted marketing services. Cons are that some users choose to hide their identity to protect themselves when they are involved in illegal activity. People use VoIP even though it can only be used with an internet connection or a phone’s mobile hot spot.

Hidden Identity

VoIP services only know what information you put in when you sign up, so it can be anonymous. The service asks for an email account, which can also be anonymous, so tracing the number may be almost impossible. Scammers use the system because it gives them cover from the police and prosecution reducing the risk of being caught.

Locating the Caller

You can trace a phone number by doing a reverse phone number search to find if the number is traditional or Internet-based. You may be able to locate an IP address for the VoIP number, but unless you are highly tech savvy, chances are you won’t be able to uncover who is using the number. However, law enforcement has tools which may be able to locate the origin of the calls.

Google Voice is a popular VoIP service. While the service many be anonymous, Google collects and shares information with third parties that may help to track the caller. Google does not have a directory of its VoIP numbers, and such efforts would be pointless since the numbers can and do change all the time. You should use the following tips to track the number.

  1. Phone directories. You can use a reverse phone search to find the number, even if it’s a VoIP number. If you think the number is fake, you can check online phone directories to see if it has been reported.
  2. You can search Facebook to see if the person has linked the number to their social media profile.

Protecting Yourself

If you receive a call from a VoIP phone number, treat it as if it is fake. Never give out personal information to a stranger. You should report any suspicious activity to the police immediately.

Should You Monitor Your Child’s Phone?

Class on Internet Safety

Kids love phones. Parents are buying phones for their kids at a much earlier age than ever before. The kids may use the phones for watching videos or doing research for school, but chances are that the majority of their time is spent on social media. For that reason, parents have become the number one purchaser of apps that track their kids and provide parental controls.

The Statistics

Parents might think that their kids are well protected from predators and cyberbullies. In a perfect world, that would be true. Sadly, the statistics say otherwise.

In 2017, it was reported that 57% of tweens and 66% of teens were involved in some aspect of cyberbullying. Analysts gathered the data from more than 500 million messages via email, texting, and social media.

53% of tweens and 72% of teens were sent content containing nudity or messages of a sexual nature; 11% of tweens and 18% of teens were involved in a self-harm/suicidal situation.

Do You Need an App?

There are many apps that can give parents control over the phone use of their kids. Apps are helpful in tracking the location of your child as well as viewing their online activity. Many phones have built in control systems, such as the ability to block phone numbers. Apps take it one step further, allowing you to trace unknown callers on your iPhone or Android or do a reverse search to identify a caller.

Parents can search through a kid’s phone for inappropriate messages, profiles and photos, but the effort is often wasted. Kids are tech savvy, usually more so than their parents, and can hide what they don’t want to be seen. Using an algorithm to find information is more efficient and effective.

Monitoring Kids’ Activity

Parents can restrict adult content on their kids’ phones. Other things that are monitored include cyberbullying, threats of violence, signs of depression, suicidal behavior, and online predators. The apps use a specific algorithm to scan social media networks, YouTube and YouTube Kids, email, text messages, and more.

Phones Aren’t the Only Problem

While kids use their cell phones most often, parents should also monitor other devices such as computers, laptops and tablets. Those who aren’t savvy about file storage should also be aware that messages and photos can be stored in the cloud in files on sites like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive. The files can be accessed anywhere by anyone with an account.

Having a Discussion with Your Kids

Perhaps the hardest part about digitally monitoring your child is having the conversation about why it’s important. Kids may see it as being punished or as an invasion of privacy. They may resent you for controlling their online use. However, they must be made to understand that it is in their best interest and that it’s being done to keep them safe – online and offline. Someday, probably many years down the road, they will understand and thank you for watching over them.

 

 

 

 

 

Avoiding IRS Phone Scams

Internal Revenue Service

Tax season may be over, but IRS scams are still in full force. The Internal Revenue Service has announced a “new twist” on IRS phone scams. Criminals call unsuspecting targets and claim to work for the Taxpayer Advocate Service. Callers use a spoofed phone number from a TAS office located in Houston or Brooklyn. They may use robocalls, requesting a callback. When the person calls the fake office, they will be asked to provide their individual taxpayer identification number or Social Security number.

Who Is the TAS?

The Taxpayer Advocate Service is an independent organization that operated within the IRS. They provide help to people facing an issue with the IRS such as issues filing a return, tax debt or problems working with the system. People seeking information from the TAS are directed to call the organization directly; the TAS does not initiate calls to taxpayers offering services.

The Scam

“Representatives” inform their victims that they owe taxes and must pay immediately or lose their driver’s license or face jail time. The caller, who is typically hostile or even abusive, demands payment through a pre-paid debit card or a wire transfer. The scammers take it one step further by placing a second call, supposedly from a law enforcement agency or Department of Motor Vehicles. If the victim uses an app for unknown number look ups, he will find that the number has been spoofed to match the organization’s official number.

There is a variation on the scam. The con artist may try to trick the person into believing he has a large refund due, but must provide personal information to receive it.

Other Tactics

Scammers have developed more tactics to fool the public. They include supplying fake names and IRS badge numbers, sending bogus emails to back up their claims, mimicking the sounds of a call center, or providing the last four digits of the person’s Social Security number.

Signs It’s a Scam

The IRS publishes a list of things that they would never do with the hopes of alerting the public. For example, the IRS never calls to inform a taxpayer that he owes money, nor do they make threats or involve local law enforcement. If you receive a call, do not give out personal information, nor should you engage the caller in any way. The longer you stay on the phone, the longer the scammer thinks you may fall for the scam.

The scammers may also attempt phishing to gain information via email. They will request personal information and payment, complete with threats.

Report the Fraud

If you receive an email, do not respond and report it immediately to [email protected] (Subject: IRS Phone Scam).

To report a phone call, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484. You can also file a complaint on the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting webpage. Additionally, you should report it to the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant with “IRS Telephone Scam” as the subject.

 

Getting Revenge on Scammers

Answer bot deters scammers

Legitimate businesses have used automated telephone systems for many years. Techs designed the systems to reduce or eliminate the need for human operators and tech support personnel. Many websites feature systems in the form of conversational bots, i.e., robots or “bots” that answer questions based on keywords and phrases. For example, if you log onto Microsoft and ask a question about making your computer faster, the bot will give you a list of links to follow that may answer your question. Businesses use it as a time saving device. One report shows that these bots can answer 29% of a customer’s questions, saving 44% of time that would be otherwise used with live support.

Calling Systems

Automated phone systems are a part of every day life. They are used when you call a company for information so that you are directed to the right department. They can be annoying for the caller, but in other ways efficient. Another automated system that is popular is the ability to block or blacklist certain phone numbers that call unsuspecting people. Most apps blacklist phone numbers based on the number of people they call. If a phone number is used to call 1,000 people, it is obviously a robocaller and, therefore, should be blocked. These systems tend to be relatively effective.

Telemarketers and Scammers

Telemarketers and scammers waste our time and, in most cases, want to get our hard-earned money. You can download apps that will help you to trace unknown callers on your iPhone to ensure the caller is legitimate and will also block calls and texts. Users love these apps because they save time and prevent annoying people from calling. However, there is a new trend that takes it one step further. Robokiller has introduced a feature on their platform known as Answer Bot. Not only does it block unwanted calls, it plays a pre-recorded message to keep scammers and telemarketers on the phone.

Getting Revenge with Bots

We’ve all wanted to get revenge on scammers at one time or another. We learn to avoid saying “yes” and other things that can get us into trouble, but scammers are clever and relentless. Answer Bot blocks unwanted calls and allows users to play a pre-recorded message for the person being blocked. For example, a scammer calls your phone. Answer Bot blocks the number, so you are not disturbed. While you go on about your day, the scammer hears a recorded message that sounds like a regular conversation. The caller is engaged in the conversation, thereby wasting his or her time.

The Result

Many scammers and telemarketers are not permitted to hang up on a potential target, so they are forced to stay on the line. Robokiller reports that Answer Bot has prevented the scammers from making approximately 300 calls; the longest call recorded to date lasted 45 minutes.

What’s better than reducing or eliminating unwanted calls? The knowledge that you’ve had just a little bit of sweet revenge.

 

 

 

Dating Site Catfish

 Catfishing is pretending to be someone you're not

People using dating websites are familiar with the term “catfish.” Individuals who catfish people online are pretending to be someone else. They get people to believe that they are something they’re not to trick them. The scammer may trick a person for more than one reason. The catfisher could be a jealous partner, a stalker, someone playing a game, or worse. People who catfish often intend to steal your information for personal gain.

What is a Catfish?

Dating websites and social media apps are the most common places to uncover catfishing. Dating sites have the most instances of catfishing but it can happen on other sites like Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat.

This is how it could happen. Suzy signs up on a popular dating website. She posts a flattering picture and basic information. Suzy gets messages from men interested in talking to her. Suzy is excited by the attention she receives. She looks at pictures and answers a few messages. It isn’t long before Suzy notices some strange things about some of the messages. Here are some red flags:

No Profile Picture

Several people contacting Suzy don’t have a profile picture. Some say they don’t have a picture because of their job, but often, the person is married or not who he claims to be. It could be a catfish situation.

Too Good to be True

The sender seems too good to be true. He just might be. If his photo is professionally done or looks familiar, chances are it’s not real. Use a reverse image search to look for like pictures. Common apps include TinEye and Google Reverse Image Search.

Bad English

Scammers may not be native English speakers. They try to convince victims that they are American, but the language gives them away. They often use the wrong words or confuse things such as their, there, and they’re.

Too Much Too Soon

Those who catfish want their targets to act quickly. They try to gain your trust and get your money as fast as possible, so they will to go to any length to win your trust and affection.

The Request

If the scammer feels you trust him (or her), he will ask for something. It usually starts with something small but escalates quickly.

Common requests

Money. The rent or insurance is past due. There has been an accident. The boss fired him. He only needs a small loan.

Gift Cards or Prepaid Cards. These cards are a common request since they cannot be traced.

Take Steps to Protect Yourself

Use an internet phone number or email set up for the dating site.

Download a phone app that will allow you to record, block and/or trace phone numbers.

Never send money to a stranger.

Insist on seeing a picture. Use an image search to verify identity.

Never share personal information about yourself, your job or your family.

Always meet in a neutral, public place.

Get to know the person in real life before giving your complete trust.

 

 

The Dangers of Sexting

How Sexting Can Ruin a Person's Life

Reporters talk about sexting on a regular basis, usually involving politicians and public figures. Regular people, including teens, also sext and may not understand the implications of their actions. People have ruined marriages and relationships all in the name of fun and games. Teenagers and daters are targets for identity thieves and scammers. Kids are targets for kidnappers and pedophiles. Parents want to protect their children, but that may not be enough. Children should be educated about the dangers of sexting and contacting strangers online.

What is Sexting?

Sexting involves two people exchanging intimate information through text messages. Predators ask their targets for nude pictures or sexually-themed messages. The predators convince the victims to send the messages to get or keep their attention. Statistics show that 1 in 7 teens routinely sends “sext” messages and 1 in 4 receives sext messages. Parents should discuss sexting with their children. The child should be encouraged to share if they are being pressured by anyone to send sexts. It’s common for a person to receive a message containing a nude photo or sexual suggestion. If that happens, the child should report it. The parent can use an iPhone app to find out who owns a phone number and then report it to the authorities.

Dating Sites

Adults might send sext messages to people they meet on dating sites. Many people using online dating sites tend to move very fast in forming relationships. Hackers engage targets who get caught up by the romance and ignore their instincts. Hackers can use the messages to gain valuable information or threaten to post the messages or pictures unless the victim pays. The scammer can sell the information to another who will use it for financial gain and cause the target grief and legal troubles for years to come.

 Sextortion

“Sextortion” is a form of extortion or blackmail. The victim exposes him or herself to another through sexually-related messages or photos. The recipient uses that information and posts – or threatens to post – the information online or send it to the victim’s contacts. As a result, people can be targets of “revenge porn,” a method wherein the victim has personal information or photos posted online by a former friend or lover who wants to get revenge. The act can cause fights, embarrassment, loss of a job or worse. School officials might punish teenagers, causing them to be expelled or denied access into colleges of their choice. People put themselves and their families at risk, including their careers and relationships. Photos posted on the Internet stay there forever. You can’t delete them or get them back.

Sexting carries legal issues since the person taking or sending the photo can receive fines or jail time for distributing pornography.

Protect Yourself

If someone asks you to start sexting, refuse. It will help you to avoid embarrassment, hacking, and possible legal problems. Avoid storing intimate photos and videos on your computer. A hacker will trick his victim and access the other person’s computer, posting private photos on social media sites.

Protecting Your Kids Online

Parents Protecting Children on the Internet

Everyone knows that you can’t have your eyes on your children 24/7, especially if they are in school and spending time away from home. Sometimes it must be enough to educate your kids as best as possible, exercise reasonable care, and hope for the best. Parents should teach kids how to be safe online, especially since children spent a great deal of time on the Internet. It’s true that kids are generally more tech savvy than their parents. But that tech know-how doesn’t have anything to do with being safe online. Kids are trusting and naïve. They need watchdogs to protect them.

Safe Sites

There have been safeguards for kids almost since the Internet was invented. However, those tech savvy kids can get around those blocks with little effort. Before turning your kid loose on the internet, set strict guidelines including the amount of time spent online as well as which sites are acceptable and safe.

Steps to Take

  1. Use safety features on websites. Let’s use YouTube as an example since it’s one of the most popular sites. If you’re using a desktop, scroll down to the bottom of the screen to the “Restricted Mode” setting. This setting will hide videos that contain inappropriate content. For the mobile app, click on the three dots (top right) to get to Settings > General. Scroll down until you see the “Restricted Mode” option.
  2. Set privacy controls on social media accounts. First, make sure that the children are old enough and mature enough to use social media. Discuss what is appropriate and limit who can see their posts.
  3. Use separate accounts for adults and kids.
  4. Set up separate accounts for your kids on your computers
  5. Use kid-safe search engines and browsers.
  6. Limit the time your child spends online.
  7. Use only safe chat rooms
  8. Teach your children not to talk to strangers. While great friendships can be made online, there is a great danger that children are being approached by predators. Teach kids to maintain a safe distance. If the stranger wants your child to call or text, iPhone app to see who a phone number belongs to and note it just in case.
  9. Teach your children about “sexting.” The Justice Department has stated that the biggest threat to children is something called “sextortion.” People send graphic messages or pictures which can cause lasting psychological damage.
  10. Avoid file sharing. Aside from being illegal, sharing files, e.g., music, videos, etc. can be a doorway to getting a virus on your phone or computer.
  11. Discuss cyberbullying. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have reported that cyberbullying affects up to 15% percent of children. The percentage is higher for kids who are minorities, disabled, overweight, or LGBTQ.

For more tips, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information website.

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