Multiple federal agencies warn that phone scammers are trying to capitalize on the COVID-19 pandemic with a variety of bogus schemes designed to steal your money or your data. These scam robocall campaigns are pitching a variety of phony offers involving stimulus checks, free home testing kits, miracle cures, home detection devices, airline refunds and much more.
The Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control are all warning businesses and individuals to be on the alert for calls purporting to be from legitimate government agencies. Following are three examples cited by the FTC:
- Medicare benefits. A scammer calls to say you are entitled to special Medicare benefits related to the virus, including a free test kit. However, they’ll usually wind up asking you to “verify” your bank account numbers, health insurance policy information, Social Security number and other personal information.
- Relief payments. Callers claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration, the Small Business Administration or the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation are preying on people waiting for stimulus checks or loans. Typically, the caller will say you are approved for money and will offer expedited payments in return for bank account information.
- Employment opportunities. With unemployment surging, fraudsters are preying on people facing economic uncertainty. The FCC has warned of robocall scams offering work-from-home opportunities, student loan repayment plans and debt consolidation offers. Small businesses are also getting scam calls about pandemic-related funding or loans.
Researchers from IBM X-Force say they have documented a 6,000 percent increase in scam reports since the coronavirus was declared a global pandemic on March 11. Small and midsized businesses (SMBs) have been the chief targets, researchers say.
Organizations with industry-leading Mitel phone systems have an elegant option for dealing with persistent robocall scams. Mitel’s advanced unified communications platforms provide a couple of different options for automatically blocking, disconnecting or redirecting such calls.
Spam calls going to a single user or a small group of users can be screened with “power routing” rules in Mitel’s MiVoice Connect Client. You can forward calls based on specific criteria such as the incoming phone number, the number the caller dialed to reach the user or the user’s availability state. Calls can be forwarded to the user’s voicemail or to another extension in the system. One good option is to set up an auto-attendant that forwards these calls to a number that either plays a looping message or notifies the caller that they’re being blocked before disconnecting.
Mitel’s Nuisance Call Handler application can handle a greater volume of spam calls going to multiple users or groups. It monitors all external calls coming into Mitel extensions, hunt groups, workgroups or their subsets. Calls are checked against a list of “nuisance” caller IDs and are either disconnected or transferred to a designated extension. Calls with no caller ID are redirected to a voicemail box with recorded message.
Depending on the Mitel phone system you’re using, these features may require additional licensing and configuration changes. Our Mitel-certified engineers and Mitel support experts would be happy to discuss your environment and what you’d need to do to enable these applications.