Neighbor spoofing

I received a call from an Albany phone number late Monday morning. An irritated man on the other end said he had just received a phone call from this number and he wanted to know what I wanted.

Sitting at my desk working on deadline for the newspaper, I know for a fact I hadn’t called anyone; I was too busy trying to get the newspaper finished. But I apologized amid confusion over the incident.

Just in case my phone did something weird, I checked the call history and sure enough, it showed that I had not called the man’s number. Later in the day after my schedule had slowed down a bit, I did some searching about this type of thing and a possible explanation might fall into the “neighbor spoofing” category.

What is neighbor spoofing? According to the Better Business Bureau, described it as “the latest caller ID spoof strategy being used by phone scam artists in an attempt to get people to answer the phone.”

For these scammers to snag a victim, they first have to get someone on the phone. They now have the ability to manipulate caller ID so the person on the other end thinks they’re receiving a local call. Someone who answers one of these caller ID-spoofed calls will provide information to the robocaller that you have an active phone line.

“Active phone lines are valuable to phone scammers and will often put you on what is referred to as a ‘sucker list,’ potentially opening your phone line up to more scam calls,” the BBB reported.

I remember several months ago, the Philomath Police Department was having an issue with scammers using its phone identity to try to trick people into answering the phone. Those scammers were posing as IRS agents.

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What can you do? The BBB offers these tips:

• Avoid answering calls from phone numbers you don’t recognize, even if they appear to be local. If it’s important, the caller will leave a message.

• If your own phone number is used in a caller ID spoof call, you may receive calls and messages from people asking why you called them in the first place. This can lead to a lot of confusion between the two parties, but knowing your own number can be used by scammers may help explain the situation.

• Be aware that phone numbers of local businesses, including doctor’s offices or insurance agents, may appear to be calling you. If you’re not certain whether the call is legitimate or a spoof, hang up and dial the known phone number for the contact to verify the communication, especially if personal or financial information is being requested.

• There are call blocking apps that may help decrease the amount of spam calls, including those using a spoof caller ID. Your phone carrier may also provide a similar service or offer advice.

• Make sure your phone number is on the National Do Not Call Registry. Though it is unlikely to prevent most phone scam calls, it will help to reduce calls received from legitimate telemarketers, which can be helpful in screening fraudulent calls.

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