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How Do You Respond To Caller ID Spoofing?

Avoiding Annoying and Risky Calls

You’re being careful, not answering anonymous calls with no caller ID, or unknown numbers from out of your area, right? Unfortunately, scammers and telemarketers use technology to change the appearance of their phone number to make it look like it is coming from your local area.

Called “caller ID spoofing” the practice falsifies information about an incoming call on the receiver’s caller ID display. When a call appears to be coming from a local or well-known phone number, it is more likely to be trusted and answered. 

If you answer, the scammer may use social engineering ploys, attempting to steal your money or valuable information. These tactics can include impersonating someone in authority such as the police or a creditor, or a computer generated robocall voice using security scare tactics saying your account is breached, and more. Requests could be simple–from asking you to hit a button on your phone, to larger requests, such as asking for your Social Security number, account log in information, or a payment. While these tactics may seem avoidable, some approaches are subtle and sound very official, others are downright scary, causing a panic reaction. Many people are taken in, often more than once.

Would you recognize a spoofed call?
Maybe you wouldn’t answer an unknown number, even if it was local. But would you answer a call from your child or other family member? How about the local hospital? Bad actors can use these numbers in a spoofing scam, then create a fake emergency to steal your personal data, credit card info or solicit you to wire money or make online purchases. 

Some use automated technology and official sounding recordings to scare people into giving up information. Using auto dialing software, robocalls are delivered to millions of Americans each day. Other calls come in from aggressive telemarketers. 

A recent U.S. Spam and Scam Report states as many as 59.49M Americans (23%) report having lost money as a result of phone scams in the past 12 months–up from 56 million (22%) in 2020. Americans lost $29.8 billion to scam calls in just the first six months of 2021.

Elderly Couple Worried With Credit Card

The problem is growing
FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said robocalls with spoofed numbers are increasing.  “What is worse is when we crack down on these junk calls, the scam artists behind them find new ways to reach us. Increasingly, that means robocalls are coming in from overseas. In fact, one study suggests that last year as much as two-thirds of this stuff may now come from abroad.”
Communications company First Orion confirms spam calls increased 118% in 2021 over 2020. 

Isn’t spoofing illegal?
The Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 made some spoofing illegal. However, if no harm is intended (such as a marketing call) or caused, the spoofing is not illegal. According to Congress, perpetrators must have acted with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value.

To complicate matters further, some spoofing is legitimate. For example, companies such as Lyft or Rover mask calls in order to protect the information of their employees and their customers. Law enforcement may use spoofing during an investigation.

Since June 30, 2021, every major voice provider in the U.S., including AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile and cable provider Comcast, has been required to implement verification technology. Called Stir/Shaken, the technology curbs spam calls by requiring voice providers to verify where calls are coming from. Last month, the FCC passed additional regulations targeted at overseas phone scammers. When foreign calls enter American networks through gateway providers, these providers must verify calls before they pass them on to other operators in the states. Smaller carriers still have until next year to comply with these rules.

Learn how to recognize fraudulent caller ID spoofing.
Verizon Wireless offers these tips to help you identify and avoid phone scammers:

  • Be skeptical of generic greetings, such as ones that address you with “Dear customer,” as opposed to your real name.
  • Avoid answering unknown numbers, as scam callers will regularly use unknown numbers.
  • Pay attention to the caller’s tone of voice, and avoid giving information to a caller who seems pushy or demanding. This is a tactic employed by scammers to make matters appear urgent, manipulating our human nature to force a reaction.
  • Be wary of the reason a caller gives you for needing your personal information. If the caller says they need it for an event you have never previously heard of, hang up immediately. 
  • Don’t stay on the phone line. Trust your gut if you have any concerns regarding the legitimacy of the caller. Hang up immediately.

Report spoofing
Any U.S. citizen who believes they are a victim of caller ID spoofing can file a report with the FCC Consumer Complaint Center. The FCC imposes a fine of up to $10,000 per violation. 

It is not productive to attempt tracing a scam call yourself, and you could inadvertently reveal more information about yourself. Notify the FCC or the FTC. In the unlikely event a scam is occurring locally, contact the police.

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Protect your personal information.
Scammers victimize people of all ages and ethnicities. They use tactics to gauge vulnerability, and how easily people give up information. Think once you’ve been a victim it could never happen again? A third of those taken by scammers have lost money an average of three times.

These tips will help you protect your personal information and avoid being the target of caller ID spoofing and scams:

  • Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. If you do, hang up immediately. 
  • Don’t hit any buttons. If the caller asks you to, hang up immediately. 
  • Don’t answer any questions, especially ones regarding your personal information. 
  • Never reveal personal information, such as your Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, passwords, or credit card numbers.
  • Don’t assume they are who they say they are. If you receive a call from somebody representing a company or a government agency, hang up and call back the phone number listed on the company’s or agency’s website. This will help verify the caller.
  • Verify. If the spammer refers to someone else in your family that is in trouble, always verify by contacting them or another family member. 
  • Don’t put your trust into the caller until you can assure they are who they say they are, and after you have used external sources to verify.
  • Don’t panic. Social engineers will see this as vulnerability and try harder in their attempts to manipulate you into revealing personal information.
  • Set a password for your voicemail account. A scammer could hack into your voicemail if it is not properly secured with a password.

One of the simplest ways to avoid spoofed calls or not fall victim to a scam is by letting all numbers you don’t recognize go to voicemail, then screen and verify. There are also call filtering apps. Once you determine a number is spam, immediately block it through your phone carrier. 

Even with new regulations, don’t expect spoofed caller ID and robocalls to disappear anytime soon. However, your own diligence, with technical support from your voice carrier, may help minimize these risky and annoying calls.

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