Have you ever gotten a call from a number that looks like something you can trust, only to get some sort of phone solicitation when you answer? Chances are that caller is using caller ID spoofing technology. Learn how to avoid the latest phone scams as Dale investigates!

It happens all the time. You get a phone number that looks similar to your own, and you think it might be a neighbor or someone close to you. When you answer, it’s not a neighbor at all. This is how the scam starts. From there, someone on the line may start asking you for information in order to process a call. It may seem innocent enough, but what that caller is actually doing is stealing your private information.

What is Caller ID Spoofing?

Caller ID spoofing uses a legal technology, but when it is used by scammers it is definitely illegal. Caller ID spoofing allows someone placing a call to display a phone number to your caller ID other than the number they are calling from.

There are some perfectly legitimate uses for caller ID spoofing. For instance, if someone is calling from a business, they may want to display the company’s 1-800 number as the callback, even if they are calling from a different line. In another case, a doctor calling you back from a cell phone may not want to give out his or her personal phone number. In this case, they can use spoofing technology to display their office phone number as the callback number.

When Robocallers Use Spoofing

Robocallers use technology to make many phone calls quickly. They are usually calling numbers completely unsolicited and are often used by scammers. These scammers will do anything to get you to answer the phone, including illegal caller ID spoofing. One type of spoofing is called “neighbor spoofing”. In that case, the robocaller will display a number similar to yours, so that you think you are getting a call from a neighbor or friend. 

One particularly strange type of caller ID spoofing is when you get a call that appears to be coming from your own phone. If you ever get a call from your own phone number, you can be sure it is a spoofed number. There really is no way to call your own phone, especially if you aren’t the one initiating the call. Don’t answer the phone. If you answer by mistake, hang up immediately.

Another type of spoofing uses the phone number of a legitimate business. In one case, Dale got a spoofed number that claimed to be from an extended car warranty service. But when he called back, he got a gynecologist’s office that had no idea why he was calling or how he got their number.

What to Do to Avoid Being Scammed

Your first line of defense is to avoid answering unknown calls. If it is important and from a legitimate source, they can leave a message and you can call back.

Don’t respond by hitting any buttons. Often, scammers will ask you to hit a button, even one to stop receiving calls. They use this method to identify potential targets, so don’t do it!

Don’t respond to questions. If the caller asks you a yes or no question, chances are they are digging for information that can be used to identify you, or even steal your identity.

If you get a call you weren’t expecting, or if you are at all suspicious, don’t give out any personal information. Of course, you should avoid giving out numbers like your social security number, bank account number, or credit card information. But sometimes scammers go after secondary information that can be used to unlock your identity with another account. This may include your mother’s maiden name, a childhood nickname, or any other type of question you might use to identify yourself to any of your accounts. And of course, never give out a password.

Sometimes a caller will claim to represent a company you know and trust. If you weren’t expecting a call, though, they might not really be from that company. If a caller is asking for payment, you can be pretty sure it’s a scam. No legitimate company will call you for payment without first sending out a written notice. If you’re not sure if a caller legitimately represents a business, simply hang up and call the business back with the number on your statement or even in the phonebook.

Make sure to set a password on your voicemail system. Since callers can spoof their ID, they can also spoof your voicemail. Many voicemail systems are configured to allow access when receiving a call from the owner’s number, even without a password. That enables spoofers to use your phone number to access your voicemail. Setting up a password puts one more block in the way of scammers.

Some phone companies will label calls as “likely spam” or something similar on your caller ID. If you see a call labeled that way, don’t pick up. They will leave a message if it’s important and you can decide if it’s safe to call back.

What if Someone is Spoofing Your Phone Number?

If you are receiving calls from strangers who say they have received a call from your number, your number has probably been used by a spoofer. First of all, don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. Spoofers don’t stick with one number for very long, so chances are that within hours they will no longer be using your number. If you are concerned, you can leave a message on your voicemail explaining that you are being spoofed. Then just let unknown calls go to voicemail.

What Are the Rules?

The FCC set rules for call spoofing in the Truth in Caller ID Act. The law states that call spoofing is illegal if it is done with the intent to defraud, cause harm or wrongly obtain anything of value. So if you get a call from a spoofed number asking you questions, it is probably illegal. Violators can be fined up to $10,000 per call.

There are special rules for telemarketers. Telemarketers must display the number of the company they represent or on whose behalf they are selling a product. If possible, the caller ID should also display the name of the company. They are also required to display a number that can be reached during regular business hours with a “do not call” request. That requirement applies even to companies with which you already have a business relationship.

Here at TrustDALE.com, we have seen our fair share of telephone scams. In most cases, the best way to avoid a scam is just to hang up. If you have any other questions about phone scams, just contact us.

Dale's New Book:
Don't Get Scammed: Get Smart!