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THE FEDERAL Communications Commission
(FCC; fcc.gov) has reported a rise in “neighbor
spoofing.” It’s a tactic illegal robocallers use to
try to trick you into answering calls. Advances in
technology are behind the surge in calls, according to the FCC, which regulates America’s phone,
broadcast, television and internet services.
In neighbor spoofing, callers hide behind a
fake caller ID number that matches your area
code and the first three digits of your phone
number, so you think they are local. You may get
a call that matches your number exactly; officials say malicious robocallers may do this to
avoid call blocking. A caller may pose as a business, organization or the government to trick
you into giving out or confirming personal information that can be used in fraudulent activity.
Making autodialed or prerecorded calls to
consumers without their consent is illegal. Some
robocalls are allowed—for example, those con-
cerning bank fraud alerts, health care remind-
ers, package deliveries and federal loans. Thanks
to the Truth in Caller ID Act of ;;;;, FCC rules
prohibit 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.”
Last year, the FCC proposed its largest fine
yet: ;;;; million against the perpetrator of an
illegal robocall campaign who used neighbor
spoofing to make ;; million robocalls during a
three-month period. When consumers answered
the calls, they heard a prerecorded message that
advertised “exclusive” vacation deals imperson-
ating companies such as Marriott, Expedia,
Hilton and TripAdvisor. Prompted to “Press ;,”
consumers were transferred to foreign call cen-
ters where live operators tried to sell them
low-quality vacation packages that had no rela-
tion to the well-known companies they imper-
sonated. An FCC statement explains that
unsuspecting consumers deceived into taking
the bait spent from a few hundred up to a few
thousand dollars on these “exclusive” deals.
Putting your phone number on the Do Not
Call Registry ( donotcall.gov) lets you choose
whether to receive sales calls from legitimate
companies, but it does not stop illegal calls.
Perpetrators do not care about breaking the law.
Here are some tips to protect yourself.
Do not answer a call from an unrecognized
caller ID. Experts warn that picking up a call verifies an active number and could subject you to
more calls. Also, avoid calling back to find out
who called; it could lead to a scam.
Hang up if you answer an unwanted call. Do
not press number buttons to be connected with
someone; it could lead to a scam.
Do not rely on caller ID. If a caller claims to
be a business, organization or the government,
hang up, look up call-back information from a
legitimate website or recent bill and verify that
the call you received is authentic.
Do not provide or confirm your personal
information. Do not offer or confirm account
numbers, your Social Security number, passwords or other identifying information unless
you know who you are dealing with.
Look into services that can help block
unwanted calls. Some are free; others cost
money. According to the Federal Trade
Commission (FTC; ftc.gov), these services
include features on your mobile phone, apps,
cloud-based services, call-blocking devices or
services provided by your phone service carrier.
If you are considering an app and have privacy
Be suspicious of any caller pressuring you to
take immediate action. In general, it is the sign
of a scam.
Report unwanted calls
Both the FCC and the FTC work with telecommunications providers, industry groups and
counterparts at federal, state and international
government bodies to combat illegal calls. By
reporting unwanted calls, you help phone carriers and partners working on call-blocking solutions, as well as law enforcement pursuing
offenders. You can file complaints at consumer
complaints.fcc.gov and ftc.gov/complaint, and
report unwanted calls at donotcall.gov.
For more information, visit consumer.ftc.
gov and fcc.gov/unwanted-calls. C
Try to be spoof-proof
Taking steps to avoid phone scams