Q: For the past several days I have been receiving calls on my home phone that say on the caller ID they are coming from my own phone number. I know it’s a scam, but what can be done about this?
Answer: SAM has heard from several readers this week about a new wave of “caller ID spoofing,” a problem that we have written about in the past.
According to a spokesman for the Federal Trade Commission, which oversees the National Do Not Call Registry, fraudulent telemarketers can make any number they want appear on your caller ID, or they can block it entirely. Both practices are illegal under the FTC’s Do Not Call rule.
Some calls come from supposedly disconnected numbers, though sometimes they spoof an active number. We have also heard from readers who have gotten scam calls that, like yours, show their own telephone number on the caller ID.
Scammers use this spoofing technology to get you to pick up the call. Often they are calling from outside the country — and since they are trying to scam you, they are already breaking the law, so violating the Do Not Call Registry means little to them.
It’s easy to tell that you’re not calling yourself and that call is likely a scam, but one recent wrinkle in the scam has been the use of a number that is in your own area code, which can mislead you into believing it may be a legitimate call from someone you know. The FCC refers to this as “neighbor spoofing.”
If your own number is being spoofed, as in this case, don’t panic: “usually, scammers switch numbers frequently,” the FCC explains. “It is likely that within hours they will no longer be using your number.”
SAM experienced this himself just a few months ago, with a string of calls, multiple times a day, allegedly from his home line. He ignored them and they soon stopped.
In all cases, the best thing to do is report the call to the Do Not Call Registry at complaints.donotcall.gov or call 888-382-1222.
Anyone who is illegally spoofing can face penalties of up to $10,000 for each violation, though they are hard to track down. Some people have complained that they don’t feel the Do Not Call Registry works, but every report can potentially help the FTC in building cases against businesses that do not follow the registry’s rules.
Here are some tips from the FCC about avoiding spoofing scams:
- Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. If you answer such a call, hang up immediately.
- If you answer the phone and the caller — or a recording — asks you to hit a button to stop getting the calls, you should just hang up. Scammers often use this trick to identify potential targets.
- Do not respond to any questions, especially those that can be answered with “Yes” or “No.”
- Be sure your home number’s voicemail account is password-protected. Otherwise, a hacker could spoof your home phone number and gain access, since some voicemail services are preset to allow access if you call in from your own number.