Are you getting phone calls from phone numbers with the same area code and first three digits as your own phone and wonder if you might know who is calling?
You’re not alone. There has been an uptick in this activity reported across Connecticut. It’s called “Neighbor Spoofing” and it is actually illegal. Director of Audience Development at News 8, Vanessa Wojtusiak, explains the topic during the weekly #TechTuesday segment featured on ‘Connecticut Style’ at 12:30pm.
This type of spoofing – or deliberately falsifying information appearing on caller ID – stems from robocalls. There are two kinds of robocalls; one that is legal which users have consented to receive. These types come from the dentist, a bank or generally more recognizable phone numbers with a call back number. The second type are fraudulent. With these calls, scammers try to tell consumers a prize or a vacation was won. The mission of these fraudulent robocalls is to be able to access credit card information or any other personally-identifying data.
More recently, scammers have advanced with technology which is able to mimic local phone numbers. These “local” phone numbers disguise where the call is originating from by using the area code and first three digits of a phone number which look surprisingly similar to the consumer who is receiving the call’s phone number.
Scammers use this type of spoofing so the phone number looks trustworthy enough to answer the call.
The system that powers these “neighbor spoofing” calls is able to rotate through phone numbers automatically and dial with a complex matching tool in Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP), like Skype or any digitally-powered call system. VOIP providers allows for the selection of a phone number to use for an outbound phone call.
These unwanted neighbor spoofing calls can originate domestically or even internationally. Because the technology is fairly new, and due to laws and legislation needing to be passed, they are difficult to trace at this time.
Prevention Methods to Take:
If you are receiving a phone call from an unfamiliar number
1. Do Not Answer, Let It Go to Voicemail
If you do answer, be sure to identify who is calling and call the business back to verify. Do not take part in a conversation. Never answer yes or press any buttons as those words can be recorded and used later on as a falsified acknowledgement for a purchase or agreement.
2. Report the Call to Both the FCC and FTC
Both government organizations, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as well as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have mentioned that this is the number one complaint filed by the public. There have been about 200,000 reports of robocalls in 2017 alone. By reporting robocalls, consumers are helping raise an issue so that the FCC and FTC can help push telecommunications partners on call blocking technology. The FCC has passed a Truth in Caller ID Act which “prohibits any person or entity from transmitting misleading or inaccurate caller id information with the intent to defraud, cause harm or wrongly obtain anything of value.” Each violation holds penalties of up to $10,000 for each violation. In 2017, the FCC has fined telemarketers over $200 million.
3. Add Yourself to the Do Not Call List
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a national database of phone numbers to prevent telemarketers from making phone calls to. Add yourself to the list here.
4. Download a Robocall Blocking App
An app called RoboKiller is actually recommended by both the FCC and FTC to help stop these unwanted calls. Download it for your iPhone here and Android device here. It has a free 7-day trial and $2.99 monthly or a $24.99 yearly subscription fee.
If you do become the victim of a scam through a robocall and have lost money, provided personal information or have been placed into a threatening situation, call local police immediately.