If you’re getting odd numbers on your phone that you don’t recognize and they come up as toll-free, you might be wondering if they’re calls from legitimate businesses, or calls from scammers and spammers. A lot of people find themselves asking “why is a toll-free number calling me?” and the answer is often: it’s a scam.
That isn’t the case absolutely all the time, of course. Lots of legitimate businesses do use toll-free numbers to call their customers, and this is actually the more frequent occurrence. Unfortunately, a lot of scammers have cottoned onto this fact, and are using toll-free numbers to call people because they know individuals are more likely to pick up.
It’s unfortunately pretty easy for scammers to get toll-free numbers or to disguise their true number, and doing this is a good way to surpass people’s skepticism, because these numbers have traditionally belonged to big businesses. Let’s figure out a bit more about this and deal with any confusion you may be feeling!
The Toll-Free Conundrum
A toll-free number is a number that has a distinct three-digit code. Calls can be placed to that number from landlines without costing anything. Common numbers include ones starting with 800, 833, 844, 855, 866, 877, and 888.
When a business uses one of these numbers, they pay for any calls that are placed to that number (rather than the caller paying, as is usually the case). The business therefore foots the bill for customers who call to inquire about products, etc., and encourages customers to call, because it doesn’t cost anything.
That means that these numbers have traditionally been associated with businesses and customer service departments, and they used to be pretty safe to answer. Now, however, things are more complicated and can get confusing.
If somebody calls you from one of these numbers claiming to be from a business, you’ve no easy way of telling whether they are legitimate or not. Imagine that an 800 number calls and claims to be a local landscaping company with some great deals at the moment. How do you know if they are a local company, or a scammer trying to steal your information?
This leaves a lot of people confused, and unsure how to verify who they’re speaking to. A lot of people are becoming reluctant to answer the phone because of this.
The Curious Call from 1-800
1-800 numbers can be even more confusing for some people. These are generic numbers that again allow callers to place free calls to that number, but these were the first ones used, and in 1996, the supply became exhausted – so the other prefixes had to be introduced, starting with the 888 one.
That doesn’t mean that you will never get a genuine call from a 1-800 number, however. Many businesses still use these and could call you for a number of reasons. In most cases, they will be following up on something that you have called them about, such as:
- An order you have made
- A complaint you’ve placed
- A query you have sent in
- Some work you’ve done
- To follow up on work you’ve done in the past and find out whether you would like anything more doing
Businesses that use this sort of number are usually national or in the e-commerce field, so they are likely to be dealing with clients across the US. There are many legitimate reasons that they may call you, even if you aren’t expecting a call.
However, if you aren’t expecting a call, you should immediately be wary of the business, and not assume that they are who they say. It can be very difficult to tell the difference between a genuine call and a potential scam, so caution is advised.
Unraveling the Toll-Free Mystery
There are lots of reasons that you may receive a toll-free call, and as mentioned above, many are legitimate. Businesses need to communicate with their clients and customers and could call you unexpectedly for a number of reasons.
You’re more likely to get a call if you are doing business with them or if you’ve had work/products in the past.
Bear in mind that you might also get called by, for example, a doctor’s office to confirm an appointment, or to follow up on information you have passed on. It’s not a good idea to ignore numbers just because they are toll-free.
Common Reasons for Toll-Free Calls
There are a lot of reasons for legitimate businesses to call you, especially if you have ordered a product or you are having some work done. For example, you might be called if there’s going to be a delay in delivery, if the company needs to confirm something, if something relating to the work has changed, etc.
You may also get calls to confirm an appointment if you’ve booked one – and failing to answer this could result in the appointment being canceled, especially if the business cannot get through to you after multiple attempts.
Some businesses also call to offer service updates and tell you what’s going on, or what’s changed recently. You might be called to ask if you’re interested in products that are similar to ones you’ve purchased in the past, or to inquire whether you want any more work done.
In some cases, you’ll get a call from a toll-free number because you’re requesting troubleshooting or advice from a customer service line, and they need to call you back.
Remember, you don’t necessarily have to have recently contacted the business for them to have a legitimate reason to call you, and it will often be from a toll-free number if they do.
Potential Scams and Frauds
There are, of course, a lot of scams out there, and there are a few key factors that will help you determine when something is likely to be a scam and when it’s not. The first thing to pay attention to is what the number is, and whether you recognize it. However, some scammers deliberately spoof trusted numbers to increase the chances of people picking up.
That means that even if you recognize the number, you need to treat it with caution, especially if you aren’t expecting the call. Offer to call the business back, and then verify the number independently online (rather than using a callback feature on your phone) and get in touch yourself.
It’s also important to be wary of any “wins” that you get when they come from toll-free numbers. There are a lot of prize and lottery scams associated with these numbers because scammers want people to think that they are being called by a large company that might be running giveaways.
A few things you can do include verifying the business name and the name of the individual you are speaking to. If you haven’t prompted the call and don’t recognize a legitimate need for the business to be in touch, it’s safest to treat it as a scam.
There are lots of things that you can do to protect yourself from the dangers of being scammed. One of them includes verifying all toll-free numbers before you respond to them. You can look numbers up online to see who they belong to.
Number Tracker Pro is a particularly good tool for doing this. You just need to enter the number into the search box and buy some credits, and you’ll receive lots of information about that number. Number Tracker Pro can tell you which business it belongs to, where they operates, and a whole lot more!
It’s important to combine this approach with overall caution because number spoofing can conceal a scammer who wants to look like a legitimate business. If you are unsure who you may be dealing with, be cautious and avoid giving out any personal or financial information.
Remember that if you aren’t sure, you can always offer to call the business back, verify their number for yourself online, and then call them. You will then be sure that you’re talking to the person you intended to.
If you receive suspicious calls or you research a number that’s called you online and find that it’s suspicious, it’s a good idea to report them to the relevant local authorities, and to your phone company. This helps to shut down scammers, and may protect others!
Toll-free numbers often raise red flags today, but they don’t necessarily spell trouble. A lot of these calls are legitimate and necessary, but enough scammers have cottoned onto this fact that you need to treat them with caution. It’s very important to always be vigilant and to err on the safe side if you aren’t sure.
Number Tracker Pro is an excellent tool to add to your scam-fighting arsenal because it will let you verify whether a toll-free number is legitimate, and will increase your telephone security. Turn to it any time you’re in doubt about who’s calling!