Beware of spoofing scams: No, you aren’t calling yourself

Published 9:21 am Friday, April 6, 2018

Better Business Bureau (BBB)

It’s confusing and makes no sense: you know you’re not calling yourself, no matter what the caller ID says! If your caller ID shows a call is coming from your own number, resist the curiosity and ignore the call. It’s most likely a scammer trying to trick you into giving out personal information. And if it’s not, you can listen to the voicemail after the fact and decide if it was a legitimate caller you need to contact.

The practice of using technology to alter or disguise an incoming telephone call is called “spoofing” and most calls from spoofed numbers are illegal since they are an attempt to defraud you. Scammers know that a lot of people won’t pick up a call from an unknown number, so they spoof the numbers of well-known companies or government agencies. Spoofing your own phone number or a number that begins with the same six digits as yours (“neighbor spoofing”) may also help fraudsters beat new call-blocking services and apps that rely on blacklists of known robocallers and illegal telemarketers.

Scammers who get you to answer the phone want one of two things –to pitch their products or to steal your personal information.

Some callers who use neighbor spoofing and robocalls are trying to sell extended auto warranties, medical alert systems, travel packages, and credit card interest rate reduction. BBB advises consumers to be cautious buying any product marketed this way.

Other callers are pretending to be your bank, phone service provider, or credit card company. They tell you there is something wrong with your account and they need your personal information to fix it. Don’t do it. They’re phishing and hoping you’ll bite.

In many cases, the scammer will tell you that you can opt of future calls or speak to a representative by pressing a certain number on your keypad. In reality, pressing any number simply tells the computerized dialer that yours is a good, working number. Then the crooks sell your number to other crooks and you end up getting more calls instead of less.

Over the past few years, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has held four public challenges to encourage the industry – as well as upstart innovators – to further explore options for stopping unwanted calls. In March, they co-hosted a joint policy forum with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) aimed at furthering the fight against illegal robocalls and caller ID spoofing. And last week they announced a complaint against Alliance Security, a home security system installation company, its owner and two of its telemarketing firms, for continuing to call people whose numbers were on the Do Not Call Registry.

Reporting these calls does help. The FTC takes the phone numbers you report and releases them each business day to help telecommunications carriers and other industry partners that are working on call blocking solutions. Your complaints also help BBB track the kinds of scams happening in a particular area and help law enforcement identify the people behind illegal calls.

BBB tips for managing spoofed calls:

  • Do not trust Caller ID. Your phone’s screen might display the number of a familiar and trusted person but it can be a fake.
  • Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize or from your own number. Allow these calls to go to voicemail where you can monitor them better. Return the call only if you recognize who is calling.
  • If you received a voice message with any sort of offer, do not call them back.
  • If you answer and get a recorded message, do not press any buttons you. Doing so confirms your number is good and can lead to even more annoying calls in the future.
  • Don’t provide financial or other personal information in response to an unsolicited call.
  • Trust your instincts. If something does not seem right or seems too good to be true, hang up.

Use BBB Scam Tracker to report scams and to see other scams in any area of the country. You can also report scammers to the FTC.