In today’s digital age, we as the consumer have tools to help protect our identities from theft. Unfortunately the thief’s toolkit is getting more sophisticated as well.
Caller ID Spoofing
We think of caller ID as a quick and easy way to identify who is calling us. However, just as with junk mail and spam email, less than scrupulous people have developed ways to get around these handy systems and use them for their own gain.
There are a few common methods used to trick caller ID technology and confuse you as the user. The first is using a VOIP (voice over Internet protocol) program that allows you to make calls from your computer. Often these allow you to customize the numbers others can contact you at as well as the number that others receive.
A prepaid phone also allows a similar outcome. Instead of using a computer the user buys a phone with a prepaid number of minutes. Doing so allows them to customize their outgoing phone number which can be changed either with a new phone or through the Internet.
How to Protect Yourself
Protecting yourself from caller ID spoofing comes down to common sense. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Rarely does anyone actually win something from a contest that they did not enter themselves. If you do get an offer like that, be sure to take a moment and step back to think about how likely this really is.
It is never a good idea to give your personal information (account numbers, PINs, Social Security numbers, etc.) to someone who contacts you. If the person on the other end asks for this sort of information, it is better to call back using the phone numbers you find on the business’s official website. This allows you to be in control of who is calling whom.
What to Do If You Suspect Spoofing
Spoofing a caller ID is not technically illegal. However, if the user is doing it in such a way as to defraud someone then it does become an illegal act. This means a friend using a VOIP service to call you with a number that is “not theirs” is legal, but that same friend using the service to try to get your personal banking information has broken the law. If you suspect someone is spoofing you can contact the FCC by phone, the Internet or by mail.
A common threat used by spoofers is to claim they are either from your bank or the IRS stating that you owe some sort of debt, commonly that you owe back taxes, and threaten some sort of legal action against you. If you get some sort of action such as this the best thing to do is to remember not to panic. You will be able to call the IRS or your bank to see what the actual status of any debts you may have.
Stay vigilant and second guess anything that sounds too good to be true and you can prevent yourself from falling victim to a spoof.