Scammers love personal information, especially yours and anyone else’s they can steal, using it to target your finances or as part of some other fraud scheme.
To them, your telephone can be a gold mine, so the next time your phone rings and your caller ID shows what appears to be a local number or even someone you recognize, you should be wary because it could be part of a ‘neighbor spoofing’ scam.
With ‘neighbor spoofing,’ the callers are hoping you’ll pick up because the call looks local – even if it’s just your same area code – then they start their pitch, hoping you’ll answer their questions. It’s likely they’ll tell you that they need to update or confirm some information, or they’ll make some threat, hoping you’ll panic.
What should you do?
The Federal Communications Commission and the Better Business Bureau offer these tips:
- If you don’t recognize the telephone number, don’t answer the call. If it’s important, they’ll leave a message and you can decide whether to call back or not.
- If you answer a call that appears to be from your bank, doctor, insurance company or a utility provider or government agency, you should still be wary because scammers can spoof that caller ID. It’s likely they’ll tell you there has been some sort of problem and that they need more information and that you need to act quickly.
- Things a scammer might ask for include account numbers, passwords, PINs or insurance numbers. They might even make some sort of threat, hoping you’ll react before thinking.
- If you are at all suspicious or feel pressured, hang up before answering any questions. Some experts even advise not even answering with a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
- If you think the call could be legitimate after hanging up, take the time to look up an official phone number. Check for valid numbers on the back of your debit or credit cards, a financial account statement, a utility bill, or on an official website. Use those numbers and explain why you are calling.
To help battle this type of call, you can file a complaint with the FCC at consumercomplaints.fcc.gov, or with the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org.
The next time you get a call that you don’t recognize or are unsure of, take the time to think before you talk.