Advancements in technology have made it easy and inexpensive for scammers to hide their true identities. Unlawful robocalls and malicious caller ID spoofing have become a major concern for millions of Americans. These types of scam calls can result in financial losses, identity theft and serious consumer frustration.
Around 60 percent of all complaints received by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are regarding unwanted calls. It’s estimated that in 2016, U.S. consumers received about 2.4 billion robocalls each month and that number is expected to grow.
A new report by First Orion, a company that offers phone call identification and call management software, projects that nearly half of all cellphone calls next year will come from scammers. “Over the past year, First Orion’s data shows a drastic increase in mobile scam calls – from 3.7% of total calls in 2017 to 29.2% in 2018 – and that number is projected to reach 44.6% by early 2019,” the company said in a blog post two weeks ago.
While there are several techniques scammers use to get people to pick up the phone, perhaps the most popular method is known as “neighbor spoofing.” Con artists and robocallers use technology to modify what phone number appears on caller ID, impersonating phone numbers from neighbors, friends and local businesses to try and get you to answer the call. In many instances, it is a random number with the same area code and first three digits as you own phone number. In other cases, the number displays as coming from a local business or person in which you’ve previously communicated. But because the number appears familiar, people are more likely to answer the call.
Answering one of these caller ID spoofed calls indicates to the robocaller that you have an active phone line. Active phone lines are valuable to phone scammers and will often put you on what is referred to as a “sucker list,” potentially opening your phone line up to even more scam calls.
Better Business Bureau and the FCC offer these tips to help combat scam calls:
- If the caller claims to be from a legitimate company or organization, hang up and call them back using a valid number found on their website or on your latest bill, if you do business with them.
- If you answer and the caller (often a recording) asks you to press a button to stop receiving calls or asks you to say “yes” in response to a question, just hang up. Scammers often use these tricks to identify, and then target, live respondents, or to use your “yes” to apply unauthorized charges on your bill.
- If you answer and the caller asks for payment using a gift card or wire transfer, it’s likely a scam. Legitimate organizations like law enforcement will not ask for payment with a gift card, prepaid card or wire transfer.
- Consider registering your home and cell phone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry. Lawful telemarketers use this list to avoid calling consumers on the list. If your number is on the registry and you still get calls, they’re probably from scammers ignoring the law.
If you think you’ve been the target of a phone scam, file a report with Better Business Bureau at bbb.org/scamtracker.