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Avoiding And Protecting Yourself From Spoofing Scams

Telemarketers and criminals routinely adopt new ways to get you to answer their calls. But an increasingly common technique scam artists have been using is to falsify or “spoof” their caller ID information.

What Is Spoofing?

Spoofing is when a caller deliberately falsifies the information displayed about an incoming call on your caller ID display to disguise their identity. Scammers will manipulate the caller ID so that the call appears to be coming from a local or well-known phone number, known as neighbor spoofing, making it more likely you will answer the call. While the caller’s information may appear local, the calls are often placed by telemarketers located outside the state or country.

If you answer, the scammer may use social engineering tactics to steal your money or valuable information. The tactics scammers employ can be so subtle and deceiving that individuals let down their guard and do not question the callers legitimacy or authority.

Watch the video from the FCC to learn more about spoofing and how to avoid being scammed.

Telemarketers and scammers alike appear to only be getting better at spoofing. You may not be able to tell right away if an incoming call is spoofed. That’s why it is important for you to be aware of these practices and learn how to recognize and prevent caller ID spoofing scams. Be extremely careful about responding to any request for personal identifying information. This may be the surest way to protect your personal information.

Protect Yourself and Your Personal Information From Spoofing Calls

The tactics used by scammers are intended to exploit your vulnerability and get you to reveal important information. You are your best protection. Follow these tips to help protect your personal information and avoid being the target of caller ID spoofing:

  • Ignore calls from unknown numbers. Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers, local or 800 numbers. The simple act of answering will register your number as active and flag it for future scam calls.
  • Don’t stay on the line. If you answer, that’s ok.  Just hang up immediately once you realize it’s not a relevant call. Trust your gut if you have any concerns about the caller. Hang up immediately.
  • Never call back or reply. Do not reply to unknown texts or missed calls from unknown numbers.
  • Be skeptical and suspicious of text messages or callers that address you with generic greetings and not your real name. Don’t assume that callers are who they say they are. If you get a call from someone representing a company or a government agency, hang up and call back using a number you can verify on a bill, a statement, or an official website with a publicly listed support number to verify the caller.
  • Don’t hit any buttons. If the caller asks you to push buttons on your phone, hang up immediately.
  • Don’t answer any questions, especially ones regarding your personal information.
  • Never reveal personal information or provide payment. Be wary of any reason a caller gives you for needing your personal information such as your Social Security number, account numbers, mother’s maiden name, passwords, or credit card numbers. If the caller says they need it, hang up immediately. If you want to be sure, call the company directly using a publicly listed support number that you can verify. No company or agency will call to demand immediate payment. If they claim to be a charity soliciting donations, call the charity back using a number on their website if you are inclined to contribute.
  • Ignore threats and urgency. 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 to try to manipulate you.
  • Don’t panic. Social engineers will see this as vulnerability and try harder in their attempts to manipulate you into revealing personal information. Whenever in doubt, just hang up. There is no harm in doing so.

How to Stop Someone From Spoofing Your Number

Spoofing can also happen when someone uses your number as a cover up for illegitimate calls. If you get calls from people saying your number is showing up on their caller ID, it’s likely that your number has been spoofed.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to protect your phone number from getting spoofed. Numbers are usually selected at random, so people generally aren’t specifically targeted. It’s best that you follow the practice listed above and not answer any calls from unknown numbers. But if you do answer and get a call from someone voicing their displeasure on the other end, explain that your telephone number is being spoofed and that you did not actually make any calls.

You can also place a message on your voicemail letting callers know that your number is being spoofed. Usually, scammers switch numbers frequently. It is likely that within hours they will no longer be using your number.

If the issue continues and becomes a major burden, the best line of defense would be to change your number, but obviously, this is a huge hassle and not an ideal solution you would want to undertake.

Stopping Spoofers From Calling You

While there is no clear solution to stop these unwanted calls, there are a few actions you can take. Some best practices for stopping unwanted calls include filtering calls and blocking spam numbers. Filtering or blocking a number is different for iOS users and Android users, but both essentially involve pulling up your settings, and then selecting some sort of “block contact” option.

Most phone carriers can enable robocall blocking on your phone. Some often even flag an incoming call as “potential spam” with the message showing beside the ringing number.

Adjust phone settings to only ring for numbers saved in your contacts. Android and iPhone both have settings that can essentially block calls from those that aren’t in your address book. This will send all other calls directly to your voicemail. If they are legitimate, they will leave a message explaining their purpose and you can then decide to respond or not after vetting them.

People repeatedly targeted by spoofing scams may want to contact their carriers to change their phone number. While this may temporarily stop your phone from receiving any further scam calls, it is not a foolproof plan. Scammers can always start to spoof your new number as well, so it’s best to always follow the tips outlined in this article.