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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.
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 This inconsistency is why sometimes caller ID information is incorrect, outdated, or won’t show anything.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.
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.
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:
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.
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.