Watch Out For This Mobile Telephone Scam: You Calling Yourself — and What You Can Do

I received two telephone calls from Brian Cohen over the past 24 hours. I did not answer my mobile telephone when it rang because — well — I know I did not call myself. When I checked the list of recent calls, it simply referred to the information about me which is on my mobile telephone — such as my telephone number.

Watch Out For This Mobile Telephone Scam: You Calling Yourself — and What You Can Do

Although I found this bizarre, I reminded myself that over the years, I have received e-mail messages from “myself” which used my e-mail address — but that was easy enough to check when I applied this trick to find out from where the e-mail message actually came.

As this had never happened to me before — nor have I heard about anything similar to this — I decided to research whether or not this has happened to anyone else…

…and I found this article pertaining to a scam which is known as caller identification spoofing from the official Internet web site of the Federal Communications Commission of the United States. Because the main purpose of this nefarious practice is typically to deliberately falsify the information transmitted to the display on a mobile telephone to disguise his or her identity and defraud someone — usually to attempt to trick the recipient of the telephone call into into giving away valuable personal information so it can be used in fraudulent activity or sold illegally — it is considered a crime under the Federal Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009. Those rules prohibit anyone from transmitting misleading or inaccurate caller identification information with the intent to defraud, cause harm or wrongly obtain anything of value. Anyone who is caught illegally spoofing can face penalties of up to $10,000.00 for each violation.

Not only can the scammer use your name to fool you into answering your telephone; but he or she can also use the name of someone who is familiar to you — such as a member of your family, a friend, a neighbor, or a business colleague as only four of numerous examples — to trick you into answering your telephone.

Spoofing scams are often perpetrated by criminal gangs which are located outside of the state, territory or country in which you reside, as the scammers attempt to mask their identities and evade law enforcement.

What You Can Do to Avoid Being Scammed

No Landline Telephone Gray

Photograph and illustration ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

You may not be able to tell right away if an incoming telephone call is spoofed. Be extremely careful about responding to any request for personal identifying information.

  • Do not answer telephone calls from telephone numbers which are unknown to you. If you answer such a call, hang up immediately.
  • If you answer the telephone and the caller — or a recording — asks you to hit a button to stop getting the calls, simply hang up. Scammers often use this trick to identify potential targets — and by responding to the request, you are alerting the scammer that your telephone number is legitimate. You may thus likely be targeted again — and more often — in the future.
  • Do not respond to any questions, especially those that can be answered with “Yes” or “No.” Please read this article which I wrote on Sunday, January 29, 2017 for additional information as to why.
  • Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, the maiden names of your mother or anyone else, 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 telephone number which is on your account statement, in the telephone book, or on the official Internet web site of the company or government agency to verify the authenticity of the request. You will usually receive a written statement in the mail before you get a telephone call from a legitimate source — especially if the caller is asking for a payment.
  • Just because someone is calling you does not mean you must answer the telephone right away. Unless during the event of an emergency, allow the telephone to ring and let your voice mail record the message. Regardless of whether or not the caller chooses to leave a message at your voice mail, you can return the telephone call of the person who called you immediately afterwards, if you so choose. You can also send a text message to the person and let that person know that you will call back in a few minutes — but do not send a text message to the number used for the telephone call. Instead, use the one from the list of contact information which you have personally entered on your mobile telephone.
  • Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately. In fact, never reveal any information until you are confident about with whom you are speaking.
  • If you have a voice mail account with your telephone service, be sure to set a password for it. Some voice mail services are preset to allow access if you call in from your own telephone number. A scammer could spoof your telephone number and gain access to your voice mail if you do not set a password.
  • Contact your telephone company and talk to the representative about call blocking tools which they may have and check into mobile software application programs which you can download to your mobile device to block unwanted telephone calls. Information on available “robocall” blocking tools is available at fcc.gov/robocalls.

Your Telephone Number is Being “Spoofed”. What Can You Do?

If you get telephone calls from people saying that your number is showing up on their devices which are equipped with caller identification technology, your telephone number has likely been spoofed. Do not answer any calls from unknown telephone numbers — but if you do, explain that your telephone number is being spoofed and that you did not actually place any of those telephone calls.

You can also place a message on the outgoing message of your voice mail to automatically alert callers that your telephone number is being spoofed.

Usually scammers switch numbers frequently; so the possibility that they will no longer be using your telephone number within hours is likely.

If you receive a telephone call and you suspect that the information provided by the caller on the caller identification technology equipped with your telephone information has been falsified — or if you believe that the rules for protecting the privacy of your telephone number have been violated — you can contact the Federal Trade Commission or the Federal Communications Commission and file a complaint:

Federal Trade Commission
Bureau of Consumer Protection
600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20580
1-877-382-4357
TTY: 1-866-653-4261
www.consumer.ftc.gov

Federal Communications Commission
445 12 Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20554
1-888-225-5322 or 1-888-CALL-FCC
TTY: 1-888-835-5322 or 1-888-TELL-FCC
ASL: 1-844-432-2275
www.fcc.gov
https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov

Additionally, you can report the telephone call to the public utilities commission of your state, which usually has authority over local telephone services.

Also, consider reporting the suspected call to the telephone company which provides your service, as that corporate entity may be able to offer calling features which block unwanted telephone calls.

You can learn additional information pertaining to stopping unwanted calls and texts.; and you can also print out this Portable Document Format guide pertaining to spoofing caller identification technology.

If you already lost money to a criminal scam, report the matter to your local police department, the office of the sheriff of the county in which you are based, or one of the 56 field offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States, as the aforementioned agencies have the authority to investigate and prosecute criminal matters.

What is Blocking or Labeling?

If a telephone number is blocked or labeled as a “potential scam” on the caller identification technology of your mobile telephone, that telephone number has possibly been spoofed. Several telephone phone companies and developers of mobile application software programs offer call-blocking and labeling services which detect whether a telephone call is likely to be fraudulent based on call patterns, consumer complaints, or other means.

of the United States does not prohibit call blocking or labeling technologies.

What Are the Rules for Telemarketers Concerning Caller Identification?

The rules set forth by the Federal Communications Commission specifically require that a telemarketer:

  • Transmit or display its telephone number or the telephone number on whose behalf the call is being made, and — if possible — its name or the name of the company for which it is selling products or services.
  • Display a telephone number you can call during regular business hours to ask to no longer be called. This rule applies even to companies that already have an established business relationship with you.

Summary

I cannot fathom why anyone would answer a telephone call which appears to be from his or her own telephone number, as no legitimate reason seems to exist for anyone to receive such a telephone call — especially if by answering the telephone call, the scammer is notified that your telephone number is active and legitimate, which often leading to more scam telephone calls which attempt to trick you into parting with your money and sensitive personal information.

Unfortunately, scammers who use spoofing methods to steal money or personal information ignore established means of stopping unwanted calls — such as the national Do Not Call Registry as one example — and are not dissuaded from calling by the fact that the telephone number of the person is included on the Do Not Call list.

The last thing you want to happen is to have some nefarious scammer trick you into purchasing what he or she is selling — like an offer to lower the interest rate of your credit card, coerce you into purchasing a medical alert device or convincing you that they received emergency information from one, or blackmail you into preventing your computer system from being shut down…

…or — even worse — have access to your money or sensitive personal information.

All photographs ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

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