spoofing via phone call

What is Number Spoofing and How Does it Work 

So, here’s a question for you? How can a phone scammer scam you if you don’t answer the phone? It would be difficult, right? After all, phone scammers need you to pick up the phone and talk to them for their scam to work. 

Sadly, technology has come to the rescue of the common scammer in the form of a scam called number spooking.

The beauty of this scam for the scammer is that he or she can get you to pick up the phone, thus allowing the scam to commence. Here’s how it works.

Definition of Number Spoofing

Also called neighbor spoofing or ID spoofing, number spoofing is the practice of using software to mask a caller’s phone number, and then substitute it for another number. 

Basically, this scam allows a scammer to get past your defenses by hiding behind an ID that you believe you can trust.

Just as an actual mask covers a person’s face and gives him or her another one, the spoofing software covers the caller’s number and gives him or her another number, a trusted number. 

Examples of Common Scams

Like most phone scams, this one relies on a variation of the same theme. That is it allows the scammer to convince you that he or she is someone you trust. Below, you’ll find the variations of the number spoofing scam.

Like Attracts Like

In this version of the scam, the caller uses a number that’s similar to yours. It will have the same area code and even the same prefix as your number. The call may actually originate someplace else, including in a foreign country. 

The mask that the caller put on the number makes you think that the call is local. Because of this, you’ll be more inclined to pick up the phone.

Calling for a Friend

This incarnation of the scam has the scammer stealing the phone number of someone you trust, like your sister or your grandmother. The scammer counts on your picking up for grandma.

It’s an Emergency

Sometimes, the scammer masks his or her number with an emergency number, like 911 + the word “emergency” or “important.” Since it looks legitimate, you’ll pick up.

Your Account Number, Please?

This type of scam sees the scammer using a number of a trusted local business, like a bank or a doctor’s office. 

Red Flags to Look Out For

These types of calls come with clues about their intent, but you do have to be looking for them: Your guard is already down because you believe you can trust the person calling you. 

Out-of-Place Calls

The number might be local. However, it’s no number that you recognize. A variation on this would be a call from an emergency number, particularly if you have no knowledge of an emergency. Same goes if you get an unexpected call from your bank or doctor’s office. There are ways to determine if these calls are legitimate, which will be covered below.

Shows Signs of a Common Scam

Remember, it’s critical for phone scammers that they reach a live person in order to make their scam work. That being the case, once a scammer gets you on the phone, he or she is going to launch into “the pitch.” 

The pitch could be (but not limited to):

  • You’ve unexpectedly won money on a contest you didn’t apply for.
  • You owe money on your taxes (or another variation is that you’re going to be arrested for something, tax related or not).
  • You’ve been a victim of fraud and need to send your money elsewhere to be kept safe, preferably to the caller. (We know. Ironic.)
  • Tech support calls to gain access to your computer to fix it (even though it’s not broken).
  • Your car’s warranty is about to expire.
  • The caller is collecting money for a charity or a hard-luck case.
  • The caller has news about a new investment that will make you zillions of dollars.

It’s also important to note that everything is an emergency with these calls. The caller will come at you with rapid fire speech and the demand to act now. This is to confuse you.

How to Protect Your Information

You can protect yourself from these scams by using some common sense.

First, never give out any personal information. This includes your social security number, your bank account information, your passwords or anything else that can be used to identify you. 

If it’s a bank or credit card scam, it’s likely that they’ll ask for this information. However, unless you’re expecting a call from them, don’t answer the question.

This leads to the second tip. If you do doubt the identity of the caller, hang up and call the business or organization that the caller says he or she if from. For example, if the caller says he or she is from your bank, call your bank back. If no one there called you, it’s a pretty good indication of a scam.

The third tip is to end the call as quickly as you can. These callers rely on having access to you. Don’t give it to them.

Fourth, if you do get a call from a local number that you don’t recognize, don’t answer it. If it is a legitimate call, then the caller will leave a message. If there’s no message, you can always look the number up on a reverse number directory if you’re really curious.

Finally, use technology to your own advantage. Put spam-blocking apps on your phone and put yourself on the National No-Call List. While this won’t stop all scammers – they are persistent – it will certainly cut down on the number of calls you do get.

Summary & Specific Resources

Number or neighbor spoofing has become a common phone scam. It relies on the scammer’s ability to mask his or her number in order to get you to pick up the phone. Once you do, the scam can begin. 

Unfortunately, technology makes scamming people an easier prospect these days. The best way to prevent this from happening is to take precautions, like not answering the phone if you don’t recognize the number and calling back to verify the identity of the caller in question. 

More Resources

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