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The following is for informational purposes only

Caller ID Lookup

Caller ID Lookup

Caller ID has revolutionized the phone industry by allowing you to instantly see who is calling, even when you are on the other line. It works great, especially on mobile phones, where you can see your friend or family members’ image and know instantly if you want to answer the call or not.

However, scammers have gotten very clever and developed technology that tricks caller ID to show incorrect information. Their goal is to get you to pick up the phone to scam you out of your personal details or money. Criminals use all sorts of different scams, and once they have you on the line, they start with their scripted pitch until you have provided what they want. The best defense is not pick up at all or hang up as soon as you realize it’s a scammer.

How Caller ID Works

How Caller ID Works

Caller ID is all about information. When someone calls you, or you call them, the receiving phone displays the caller’s name and phone number. Most phone carriers now offer this as a free service. In the past, it was an add-on feature you had to pay extra for.

So, where do the phone numbers come from? Each phone carrier uses a different CNAM (“Calling NAMe”), a database of users, names, and phone numbers. There is no governing body or centralized database. This inconsistency is why sometimes caller ID information is incorrect, outdated, or won’t show anything. So, what shows up on your phone depends on your phone carrier and which CNAM they are using. If you discover that your caller ID information is incorrect, you can inform your phone carrier, but it might be a while before the third-party CNAM database is updated.

What is Spoofing a Phone Number?

Caller ID spoofing is when the caller uses a device or software to trick your caller ID into showing false information. Often fraudsters use this technique to show a local number, hoping to get you to pick up the phone. They also spoof phone numbers for government agencies or other companies that you know and trust, so you won’t know you are being scammed. Often the purpose of the call is to get you to give the caller personal details like your social security number, mother’s maiden name, or other security information so they can steal your identity. Sometimes they try to get you to buy something or threaten you and demand a payment.

What to Do if You Get a Spoofed Phone Call

What to Do if You Get a Spoofed Phone Call

When you get a spoofed phone call, the best thing to do is to hang up quickly. Do not answer any questions because sometimes thieves record the call to get you to say certain words that will give them access to your accounts through digital systems. If you receive a robocall or hear a recorded message instructing you to push a button, do not do it! You could be charged a lot of money, or it may alert the scammer that you are an easy target and they will call back later.

The FCC recommends the following tips to avoid getting fooled:

  • Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. If you answer such a call, hang up immediately.
  • If you answer the phone and the caller - or a recording - asks you to hit a button to stop getting the calls, you should just hang up. Scammers often use this trick to identify potential targets.
  • Do not respond to any questions, especially those that can be answered with “Yes” or “No”.
  • 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, 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. You will usually get a written statement in the mail before you get a phone call from a legitimate source, particularly if the caller is asking for a payment.
  • 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.
  • Talk to your phone company about call blocking tools and check into apps that you can download to your mobile device. The FCC allows phone companies to block robocalls by default based on reasonable analytics. More information about robocall blocking is available at fcc.gov/robocalls.

How to Stop Phone Spoofing

Your first thought is probably how to stop someone from spoofing my phone number. There are a few steps you can take to avoid being spoofed.

How to Stop Phone Spoofing

First, contact your phone carrier. They may have free or paid services that can help block spam and scam calls. You may have to invest in a device if you are using a landline, but it should prevent spoofing.

If you use a cell phone, you can download one of many apps to help with spoofing. These apps will show the true caller and also offers some tools to deal with scammers.

You can also add your phone number to the Do Not Call Registry. However, it won’t prevent scammers from calling you, just legitimate salespeople.

Don’t answer any calls you don’t recognize; let them go to voicemail and check it later. If you receive a call and the person makes you feel pressured or threatened, hang up immediately even if it seemed like it came from a legitimate source. Scammers use scare tactics and prey on your emotions to get what they want.

Always report spoofed phone calls to the FTC.

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