March 03, 2011

Caller ID Spoofing

Dear Consumer Ed:

I received a phone call from my gas company about a past due bill. I told them I was current on my account, but they threatened to shut off my service unless I paid the bill immediately by giving them my credit card information.  I was suspicious, but my caller ID indicated that the call was, in fact, from my gas provider. I said I would have to check my records and get back to them. When I called back, they said my account was paid up and that no one from the billing department had called me. What do you make of this?

Consumer Ed says:

You were a victim of “caller ID spoofing”. This is when a scammer accesses software that allows him to disguise his identity and phone number. When the person receives a call from the scammer, a legitimate company name and phone number will be displayed.  For example, a scammer may disguise himself as someone from your bank, auto warranty company, an attorney or law office, a lottery, or a state or federal agency. The scammer usually tries to get the caller to give out credit card, bank account information or a Social Security number over the phone.  

Unfortunately, this means consumers can no longer rely on Caller ID as proof or verification that you are dealing with a trusted source. To protect yourself from scammers using Caller ID spoofing, we suggest the following tips:

  • Be cautious. Do not give out personal information or financial information over the telephone.
  • Verify the identity of the caller:
    • Write down the phone number appearing on the Caller ID, hang up and redial the number to see where the call goes.
    • Call the company's official, published telephone number to verify that they actually called you.
  • Consumers who receive multiple calls from the same number may contact their telephone service provider and request that the number be blocked.
  • File a complaint with the FCC by calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) or visiting​.

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