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Getting calls from numbers that look like yours? It’s possibly a scam and here’s why

People receiving calls looking similar to their own telephone numbers should use caution. The caller could be using a spoofed number and trying to convince you to relay sensitive information like a social security or credit card numbers.
People receiving calls looking similar to their own telephone numbers should use caution. The caller could be using a spoofed number and trying to convince you to relay sensitive information like a social security or credit card numbers.

It’s happening again and again.

Your phone rings and the number on the caller ID looks similar to your own.

Same area code. Same first three digits.

It’s just the last four numbers that are different than your own.

Perhaps you ignored it and never picked it up.

Or you answered the call then quickly learned it was some telemarketing pitch – like you won a cruise or they’re conducting a survey and “you’ve luckily been selected.”

Click.

But what exactly did you click to and end your call with?

While the company or the scam artist on the other line might be different from call to call – and come from all parts of the world – their technique is becoming more and more common.

They are Caller ID Spoofing – that’s when a caller deliberately falsifies the phone number on the caller ID rather than display the true telephone number from which the call was placed.

And they’re finding ways to make these incoming calls look like numbers similar to yours – sometimes just by showing a caller ID that starts with your local area code – to entice you to pick up the call.

In some cases, the caller ID has matched your entire phone number.

Their motivation: to convince you to give them important or sensitive information over the phone.

Like credit card information. Or your social security number.

Or have you wire them money.

The FCC suggests to never give out personal information such as account numbers, social security numbers, a mother’s maiden name, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.

To coax you into giving out that information, they might tell you about a trip you’ve randomly won.

Or say a family member is in jail.

Or that you’re behind on a certain bill and they’ve come to collect.

Use caution and don’t tell them anything.

What they’re doing is illegal.

Under the Truth in Caller ID Act, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) “prohibits any person or entity from transmitting misleading or inaccurate caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm or wrongly obtain anything of value.”

What should you do if you receive a spoofed number?

The FCC suggests:

  • Never give out personal information such as account numbers, social security numbers, a mother’s maiden name, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.
  • If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency seeking personal information, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book or on the company’s or government agency’s website to verify the authenticity of the request.
  • Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately.
  • If you have a voice mail account with your phone service, be sure to set a password for it. Some voicemail services are preset to allow access if you call in from your own phone number. A hacker could spoof your home phone number and gain access to your voice mail if you do not set a password.

If you receive a call and you suspect caller ID information has been falsified, or you think the rules for protecting the privacy of your telephone number have been violated, you can file a complaint with the FCC.

Bryant-Jon Anteola: 559-441-6362, @Banteola_TheBee

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