Caller ID may be bogus

via Moak: Caller ID may be bogus, clarionledger.com, 11/20/2015

Caller ID has drastically changed the way we answer the telephone. Believe it or not, Millennials, consumers were once unable to determine who was calling you. (I know; shocking, right?) When this technology was first introduced to the public just 24 years ago (the technology had actually been invented two decades before), it was suddenly possible to choose what calls we accepted and the ones we didn’t. Prior to that, you didn’t know if the caller was bearing life-changing news or just wanted to sell you cut-rate life insurance.

This was a great development for consumers, but quickly became a troubling issue for telemarketers. It eventually would spark what would become a technological arms race between consumers fed-up with dinnertime telemarketing calls and companies whose livelihoods depended on being able to sell stuff over the phone.

But in recent years, the reliability of caller ID has diminished. Tech-savvy companies have found ways to “spoof” caller ID information, making you think the call is coming from a local number. On Friday, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood issued a warning about a scam using this particular deception.

“Scammers realize that consumers are much wiser and more likely to reject calls from unfamiliar numbers,” Hood said. “They use caller ID spoofing technology to impersonate a known or trusted phone number to trick potential victims into answering the phone.”

Hood’s office has received reports from Mississippians that they’re getting calls that purport to be from a local number, but are not.

“Unfortunately, technology has evolved, and we can no longer fully trust that the number displayed is the number that is actually calling us,” said Hood.  “Our advice has always been to answer only those calls from known numbers, but that won’t work when the caller identification has been spoofed, or is displaying incorrect information.”

Hood noted that, in 2010, Mississippi joined other states in enacting the “Caller ID Anti-Spoofing Act” (2010 Miss. H.B. 872) to “regulate and prohibit caller ID spoofing.” However, in 2012, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the state law when it “found that the scammers had a first amendment right to spoof phone numbers and upheld the legality of ‘non-harmful spoofing.’”

So, consumers should cast a wary eye on the caller ID monitor on the phone. Here are few tips from Hood’s office:

  • Don’t answer the phone for a call that shows it is from your own number. That is a sure sign of a scam.
  • Remember that Caller ID can be manipulated. Unscrupulous companies can and do use technology that lets them display whatever number or organization’s name on the screen.
  • Hang up as soon as you realize the call is a scam. “Even answering simple questions in the affirmative or negative could be used to try to scam you,” Hood warned.
  • Be suspicious of anyone who is vague in identifying themselves on the phone.
  • Never wire or send money in any form to persons or organizations you do not know.
  • Don’t call back. If you receive a voice mail message asking for a return call, disregard it.
  • Guard your personal information. Don’t provide bank account, credit card or Social Security numbers to anyone calling you over the phone. Giving out personal information out could cause you to become a victim of identity theft.
  • Don’t be intimidated by threats of arrest. “Scammers may try to intimidate you by threatening to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested,” Hood noted. “Don’t believe them. If your physical safety is threatened in any form or fashion, be sure to report this to local authorities.”

For more information visit www.agjimhood.com, and if you’ve been victimized, call 1-800-281-4418.

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