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Trust no one: How caller ID spoofing has ruined the simple phone call

Robert Lemos | Aug. 5, 2015
I was walking through San Francisco when my phone buzzed. No caller ID, but the phone number was local, so I picked it up. Calling the man on the other end "irate" would be an understatement.

Consumers have few weapons to fight Caller ID spoofing. While services like Pindrop allow businesses to determine whether a call is likely from the reported number, there is no similar consumer service. The malicious pranksters who send SWAT teams to victims' residences are caught infrequently.

1. Don't trust Caller ID

The first line of defense is a healthy distrust of Caller ID, said David Dewey, director or research at Pindrop Security, which helps call centers and banks determine whether a phone call is fraudulent. About 1 in 300 calls are fraudulent, according to company's data.

"The best advice I can give on the consumer side is to trust no one," he said. "It does not matter who the Caller ID says the call is from, you cannot trust it."

Only provide information over the phone to someone you know and not someone who appears to be calling from your bank, the Internal Revenue Service, or some other company or agency.

2. Ask for a number to call the person back

As the FTC data shows, an increasing number of scams target consumers via their phone. Online fraudsters, for example, increasingly add a phone component to their schemes as a way of appearing more genuine.

Consumers should never just call a number in an e-mail and assume that the number is genuine. In addition, if a caller asks for your information, ask for a number at which to call them back. Investigate them online and then, if you feel confident, call them back and resume the call.


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