Chances are, it’s happened to you. You get a call from a number you don’t recognize. But because it’s your area code — you answer. Then, you realize it’s a scammer.
Scammers are “spoofing” Caller ID, so you’re more likely to pick up, and it’s more than just an annoyance. It can put you at risk for identity theft.
It’s easy to be fooled when a number looks familiar.
“It’s frustrating, very frustrating,” said Amy Minnick, of Pittsburgh. “If I see an out of town area code, I’m most likely to ignore the call and not answer it. So I find out what they’re doing is using local area codes, and you’ll answer it, and they’ll use you,” said Malcolm Harris, of Cleveland.
According to the Better Business Bureau, these kinds of scammers will try to trick you into thinking they are with a legitimate business or agency in your area that you know and trust.
“If it’s a phone number that you do not recognize, it’s best to not even answer the phone. If it’s important, someone will leave a message and you can choose whether or not to call them back,” said BBB Public Relations Director, Caitlin Driscoll.
According to the BBB, a red flag should go up anytime someone reaches out to you wanting to verify your personal or financial information.
“It varies, but the end game is usually the same. Some type of personal or financial information that can be used to steal your identity and/or your hard-earned money,” said Driscoll.
The BBB said before you ever give any information over the phone, hang up and check for yourself that they are who they say they are.
By law, telemarketers must display the number they are calling from or the number of the business they are calling on behalf of.
“It feels like it’s harassment. You know? It happens all the time. There’s no reason for it. There’s really not,” said Desiree Smith, of Carrick.
“I’m wary of the fact that there are people out there who are trying to scam people,” said A.J. Williams, of Pittsburgh.
The FCC has the Truth in Caller ID Act, which says spoofing is illegal if it’s being done with the intent to defraud or cause harm.
“So if someone is not attempting to defraud someone, it’s legal for someone to spoof your phone number and contact you,” said Driscoll.
According to the BBB, the best thing you can do to protect yourself is to register your number with the National Do Not Call Registry, as well as the Pennsylvania Do Not Call List.