Illustration of a woman in a face mask on the phone

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Coronavirus scams: the science of how to spot and deal with nuisance callers

Most of us have experienced unwanted calls at home. This is in spite of efforts by regulators, including the Information Commissioner’s Office and Ofcom, whose most recent report shows that around half of the UK population still receive nuisance calls.

This article appears in the Conversation.

Many of these unsolicited calls annoy us because they interrupt our dinner or favourite TV show – but some, such as sales or scam calls, can cause distress or even harm.

To curb nuisance calls, you can sign up for an automated call blocking or filtering service, opt out from receiving unsolicited calls by registering for the Telephone Preference Service, or enlist the help of Lenny the chatbot to answer the phone and waste callers’ time.

You may be thinking: I would never get swindled by scammers. Indeed research suggests that fewer than four in 100 people fall for telephone scams. Still, scammers end up siphoning millions of pounds by preying on people’s vulnerabilities.

At present, against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic that has upended our daily routines, fraudsters have devised new scams that exploit people’s uncertainties and fears of the virus – and, most recently, the lack of clarity about how the track and trace system works.

Salespeople and scammers often disguise their identities to prevent us from figuring out their agendas. But the language they use can still betray them. So by paying attention to subtle linguistic cues you can determine if the call is genuine or not and decide if you should hang up...

Professor Elizabeth Stokoe and Dr Bogdana Huma, of York St John University, offer three tips on how to spot and deal with these nuisance callers, according to the science of conversation.

Read their Conversation article here

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