The old trope of horror and suspense films — where the bad guy’s call is traced to the same house as the victim — is taking on a new twist in an effort to scam unwitting answerers. Scam artists, able to spoof caller ID information, can make it look like they’re calling from a different place or phone number. And now they’ve started spoofing your own number, hoping it will make you curious enough to pick up.
Most of us have gotten pretty good at identifying robocalls and ignoring them. The Federal Trade Commission warns that savvy scammers are spoofing your own phone number as a way to circumvent call-blocking and stay off law enforcement’s radar. Experian, one of the three major credit reporting agencies, says the scam can take on several forms:
In some scenarios upon answering, a recording suggests your computer is infected with a virus or pretends to be a friend or loved one needing money for an emergency. In other cases, the robocall explains that your AT&T wireless account has been comprised. To fix it, you need to enter your Social Security number … Don’t do it.
Instead, hang up immediately and report the call — the longer you stay on the line with a scammer, the more likely it is they will acquire enough info to commit fraud.
Federal law makes any kind of caller ID spoofing illegal:
It shall be unlawful for any person within the United States, in connection with any telecommunications service or IP-enabled voice service, to cause any caller identification service to knowingly transmit misleading or inaccurate caller identification information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value …
So if someone spoofs your phone number, report the call immediately to your phone provider, FTC, or state attorney general’s office.