Caller ID lets consumers avoid unwanted phone calls by displaying caller names and phone numbers, but this feature isn’t always reliable. Scammers are now using fake caller ID information to trick you into thinking they are someone local, someone you trust (like a government agency or police department), or a company you do business with (like your bank or cable provider).
This type of scam is called “caller ID spoofing” or “spoofing”. It is when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity.
Variations of this scam also include calls appearing to be from phone numbers similar to your own or others you know. For example, the area code and first three digits will be the same as yours, but scammers will vary the last four. This is because targets are more likely to pick up if they think the call is from someone nearby.
The FCC recommends these tips for what to do if you think you are being contact by one of these scams:
- Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden names, 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.