Scam Alert: The newest plague on our time and privacy is phony phone calls from fake caller ID numbers.
When your phone rings and it looks like a local call from a friend or neighbor, you may be more likely to answer.
Scammers count on this, and are now actively faking caller ID numbers that mimic the first six digits of your own number, including your area code and what used to be called your local exchange number.
The scam is called “neighbor spoofing,” and attacks both our cell phones and our landlines.
The urge to answer can be tough to resist, since you might worry that it’s the school nurse, a neighbor who needs help, or even your BFF calling from work to cancel tonight’s dinner plans.
If you see a number like this on your caller ID, remember that it could be faked, especially if it shows on your caller ID as “unknown”.
There are two options:
Let it go to voicemail. Scammers generally don’t leave voicemail, and if they do, the callback number is generally not operational.
If you do pick up and don’t recognize the caller, hang up without speaking. Especially if the recorded message says “can you hear me”.
That’s another scam we told you about recently – these scammers record your voice saying “yes”, and then use that to prove that you authorized some outrageous, illegal charge on your credit card, which they have obtained, also illegally.
- I now keep a loud whistle by my phone. In case I accidentally pick up a phony phone call, and in case there’s a live person on the other end, my response is a whistle blast. So sorry, you despicable scammer, if I cause you pain or blow out your ear.
But what else can you do? Unfortunately, not much.
The Federal Trade Commission, which warns us about telephone scams, seems powerless to stop them. Ditto phone service providers like Verizon, which earn money from each call, phony or not.
You also can register your number with the Do Not Call Registry. But that only works with blocking calls from legitimate companies, so it won’t stop calls from scammers.
But it could make it easier for you to spot scam calls. If a company is ignoring the Registry, there’s a good chance it’s a scam.
You can report such unwanted calls to the FTC, but don’t hold your breath, because by the time they get around to tracking down the scammer, they’ve likely moved on.
Another alternative is get one of the call blocking services that block or flag unwanted calls. Some are free, but the best ones cost money.
What do you think of “neighbor spoofing” phone calls, and what do you do about them? Add a comment below.
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