Caller ID Spoofing: Phone Scam Overview

Criminals are callingWe are very dependent on our caller IDs. They help us identify familiar and suspicious phone numbers, enabling us to screen calls easily.

Unfortunately, clever criminals have found ways to spoof numbers to earn people's trust. They often spoof reputable organizations such as local police departments or banks.

Don't let your guard down if you recognize a phone number. You may be the victim of a spoofing scam.

How Does Caller ID Spoofing Work?

Scammers understand that people are reluctant to share sensitive information over the phone. They often use spoofed phone numbers to make their scams look more believable. Here are some examples of a spoofing scam:

  • They spoof a bank number and pretend there is something wrong with your account. They'll ask for your account numbers to wipe you out.
  • They spoof a court phone number and pretend to be calling about jury duty. They'll ask for your social security number to have you excused.
  • They spoof a police department number and request your address and other information to steal your identity.

It's easy to fall victim to these scams, since it appears that a trusted person is calling. Always consider the possibility that the number was spoofed before providing any sensitive information.

Protecting Yourself From a Spoofing Scam

While spoofing scams can be difficult to identify, there are some telltale signs that can identify them. The FCC recommends that consumers take the following steps.

Caller Draws Attention to Caller ID

If you sound suspicious, the caller may reference the caller ID. This is a clear warning sign that it could be fraud, because most real banking employees, government officials and other legitimate callers wouldn't even think to bring to bring it up.

Call the Agency Back Before Giving Any Information

If you have any doubts about the claims the caller made, don't provide any information right away. Call the agency back to verify the statements. You can find the number online, on one of your billing statements, or a recent notice. You can authenticate the information and find out if it is a scam.

Understand Company Security Protocol

Learn the security and privacy policies of any company that you do business with. Companies like PayPal clearly state that they will never ask for your password.

If the caller appears to be violating these policies, then you should call the company back immediately. The caller may be an actual employee that is being negligent with security protocols. They could also be a scammer using a spoofed phone number. Either way, it's important to let the company or organization know. 

How to Report a Spoofing Scam

Caller ID spoofing scams can be reported to theFTCand the FCC. When filing a complaint you will need to fill in as much information as possible, since it is very difficult to catch the scammer behind a spoofed call.

You can use CallerSmart's phone number trace app for iPhone and iPad to find more information on a suspicious number that called you. You can also leave your feedback on the number to let others know that it is being used in spoofing scams. If you don't have an iPhone or iPad you can still run reverse phone lookups on numbers that call you and leave your feedback to help others on our website.