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Tis The Season For Phone Scams

Here’s a true story…the other day at was at dinner when my phone went off. The incoming number was MY number. Confused I picked up and the recording on the other end claimed to be my cell carrier saying my account had been banned and that I needed to take immediate action. It was a spam call.

But how did they spoof my own number? Voice-over IP (VoIP) is the “culprit,”. VoIP calls are made via the Web not a traditional phone line, making it a cinch for spammers to place these calls. How did this happen? Well, it became possible when company call centers were looking for an easy way to make calls to customers. That’s when one general 1-800 number…showed up on caller IDs. So what started as a common-sense solution ended up becoming an easy loophole for spammers.

And I am not alone in receiving calls like this, spam calls are at an all time high. On average, Americans received more than 2,000 robocalls EVERY SECOND in October, up 25% from the previous month. With 49 billion robocalls so far this year, all four major U.S. phone carriers now offer some form of blocking or screening service, such as T-Mobile’s well known “Scam Likely” label.

Congress and state officials passed new robocall regulations in recent months and have seen an uptick in successful cases against the scammers. Meanwhile, hundreds of tech start-ups are developing new ways to tackle the problem. And then, there’s the FCC.

Unwanted calls – including illegal and spoofed robocalls – are the FCC’s top consumer complaint and top consumer protection priority. These include complaints from consumers whose numbers are being spoofed or whose calls are being mistakenly blocked or labeled as a possible scam call by a robocall blocking app or service. The FCC has committed themselves to doing what they can to protect us all from these unwelcome situations and is cracking down on illegal calls in a variety of ways:

Issuing hundreds of millions of dollars in enforcement actions against illegal robocallers.

Empowering phone companies to block by default illegal or unwanted calls based on reasonable call analytics before the calls reach consumers.

Allowing consumer options on tools to block calls from any number that doesn’t appear on a customer’s contact list or other “white list.”

Urging phone companies to implement caller ID authentication to help reduce illegal spoofing.

Making consumer complaint data available to enable better call blocking and labeling solutions.

And last but not least, here are some of the FCC’s tips to help cut down on robocalls and avoid phone scams.

Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. If you answer such a call, hang up immediately.

You may not be able to tell right away if an incoming call is spoofed. Be aware: Caller ID showing a “local” number does not necessarily mean it is a local caller.

If you answer the phone and the caller – or a recording – asks you to hit a button to stop getting the calls, you should just hang up. Scammers often use this trick to identify potential targets.

Do not respond to any questions, especially those that can be answered with “Yes.”

Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden names, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.

If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book, or on the company’s or government agency’s website to verify the authenticity of the request. You will usually get a written statement in the mail before you get a phone call from a legitimate source, particularly if the caller is asking for a payment.

Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately.

If you have a voice mail account with your phone service, be sure to set a password for it. Some voicemail services are preset to allow access if you call in from your own phone number. A hacker could spoof your home phone number and gain access to your voice mail if you do not set a password.

Talk to your phone company about call blocking tools they may have and check into apps that you can download to your mobile device to block unwanted calls.

If you use robocall-blocking technology already, it often helps to let that company know which numbers are producing unwanted calls so they can help block those calls for you and others.

To block telemarketing calls, register your number on the Do Not Call List. Legitimate telemarketers consult the list to avoid calling both landline and wireless phone numbers on the list.

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