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spoofing phone scams
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Security & privacy

This terrifying phone scam uses a trusted phone number to trick you

Spam phone calls have been around for years and come at the most inopportune times, like when you’re sitting down for a family dinner. But they aren’t just annoying telemarketing calls these days. Now we have to worry about scammers trying to rip us off. Tap or click here for ways to silence spam calls without downloading any apps.

But what if you receive a call that looks like it’s from a loved one? Most people won’t think twice about whether they should answer. Unfortunately, it might not be that simple. 

Read on to find out how thieves are spoofing phone numbers to rip victims off in the most frightening way. You won’t believe the details of a recent example.

Here’s the backstory

Cybercriminals use a variety of tactics to get their hands on your information. Some send text messages with malicious links, while others fire off phishing emails. But some thieves are more crafty, using a technique that seems straight out of a spy film.

Demonstrated in a TikTok video, the user explains that she got a call from her mother. She had no reason to doubt the authenticity, as the Caller ID showed it came from her mother’s phone and the correct number associated with it.

@citylivingsoutherngirl #scamalert #fyp ♬ original sound – Citylivingsoutherngirl

But when she answered, she heard a woman crying in the background with a male voice that demanded money. The man said he would kill her mom if she didn’t send him $1,000 through Cash App. Getting such a call will be terrifying to anyone, and it’s hard to imagine what you would do in such a situation.

The woman told the caller she only had $100 in her account, so she couldn’t send the full thousand. The caller said that was fine, and she sent $100. Once she did, the caller hung up.

The woman hit redial on the recent call list and was connected with her mother. She frantically asked if she was OK, and her mom said she had no idea what she was talking about. It turned out to be a complete scam where the con spoofed her mother’s phone number. Yikes!

What you can do about it

Spoofing is where a scammer simulates a phone number that shows up on the Caller ID. This technique is so easy that you don’t need to be a hacker to spoof a phone number. It’s so prevalent that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made a video to warn people.

Beyond the video, the FCC gave suggestions to avoid falling victim to spoofing. Here are some ideas:

  • Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. If you answer such a call, hang up immediately.
  • You should hang up if you answer the phone and the caller or recording asks you to hit a button to stop getting the calls. Scammers often use this trick to identify potential targets.
  • Do not respond to 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 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 getting a phone call from a legitimate source, particularly if the caller asks for payment.
  • Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately. Don’t panic. Just hang up.
  • Set a password if you have a voicemail account with your phone service. 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 voicemail if you do not set a password.
  • Talk to your phone company about call-blocking tools and check into apps you can download. 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.

NOTE: Be sure to regularly check your voicemail to ensure you’re not missing important messages.

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