Your Neighbor Is Calling But Don’t Answer

Posted on September 20, 2017 by Admin

Here’s a scenario. You’re sitting at your desk and your phone rings.  The caller ID shows a phone number that is very similar to your own, yet it still isn’t familiar to you right away. However, because the area code and next three digits are identical to yours, you think “Maybe it’s my neighbor,” and you pick it up. The voice on the other end is the familiar robotic voice letting you know "you have won a resort package to a fascinating destination!" You sigh.

These types of robocalls have been on the rise of late. It’s been termed “neighbor spoofing” because the scammers on the other end make the phone number they are calling from appear to be that of someone or someplace nearby or familiar to you.  It’s not difficult to do these days because of a technology called voice over internet protocol (VOIP or voice over IP).  The scammers use computers to make any phone number look however they want to; even like your very own phone number. And it’s surprisingly successful. The FCC, which oversees telecommunication, lists robocalls and telemarketing as the number one consumer complaint they receive. It is estimated that one billion calls from robots are placed each month.

People are picking up and the scammers count on that. If the person picks up, they are more likely to listen. Then, they are more likely to give the scammers money or information.

The best advice for not falling victim to these scams is very simple: Don’t pick up the call, especially if the caller ID reflects your own number. If what the caller has to say is important, he or she will leave a message or contact you in some other way. If you do pick up and discover it’s one of these robocalls, just hang up. Don’t talk to the person on the other end or press a number for more information.

The problem with the promise of lavish vacations and prizes for “free” is that they are never free. They almost always require some sort of administrative or processing fee and many if not most times, the prize never arrives and you are out that fee or more.

A common way this method has been successful over the past year or so is the IRS scam. The caller ID shows the number as belonging to the IRS. If the call is picked up, someone on the other end claims you owe taxes or payments. Often that tidbit is followed by some sort of scare tactic, like you’ll be thrown in jail if you don’t give the person your payment card number.

If ever you get a call like this and some threat is made, don’t take any extemporaneous action. Official personnel won’t threaten you and the IRS and other government agencies will initiate communication via the U.S. Postal Service; never via telephone and never via email. So you can feel comfortable hanging up on or deleting messages from anyone who uses such tactics.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to stop these robocalls. Even if your numbers are on the government’s “Do Not Call” list, criminals just don’t care.

Recently, the FCC started allowing major carriers to block numbers that are known to be spoofed and the agency is actively working on tools that will require phone numbers to authenticate so that recipients can feel confident about picking up. However, this technology or any other solution to stop this activity is likely many years out.

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