Identity Theft

Scam Uses Your Phone Number to Trick You

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I had an encounter with an alternate universe the other day. There I was, writing a story, and my phone screen lit up with an incoming call. “Christine DiGangi iPhone” it said, which was odd, considering that I was not calling anyone at the moment, let alone myself.

I’m familiar with spoofing — when scammers fake the number coming up on a caller ID — so I let it go to voicemail. It seems that was a wise choice.

The call is coming ... from inside your phone?

Image: Christine DiGangi

The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota issued a warning July 28 about an operation designed to trick you into answering an automated phone call by displaying your phone number on the caller ID (red flag). Those intrigued enough to answer will hear a computerized message saying it can help you lower your credit card interest rates (bigger red flag), at which point you are instructed to enter your credit card number (red flag the size of Rhode Island).

The obvious consequence of following those instructions is credit card fraud, but there’s more to the scam than that. Some consumers hear an option telling them to press 1 to opt out of further messages, but doing so flags your number as one a human answers. As a result, the scammers running this operation will sell your phone number to more tricksters, so you can expect scam calls to keep coming. That’s why you should avoid answering suspicious calls in the first place.

Intrigued … & Then Taken In

“This is another clever ruse scammers have devised to get people to answer their phones,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota, according to an online advisory about the scam. “You look down, you see your own number on caller ID … obviously you want to know what it’s all about. We’re advising people to override that instinct.”

Such calls are generally illegal, because the FTC prohibits automated, pre-recorded sales calls unless you’ve given a person or company written permission to do so.

“The most ingenious aspect of these ‘spoofing’ calls is the lack of information available to consumers,” Badgerow said. “If they report the issue to the FTC, what are they to report — their own phone numbers?”

According to the BBB’s advisory, the FTC wants consumers to report the issue, even if there’s little information to include. If you think you may have been a victim of this or similar scams, make sure you’re checking your financial accounts, credit reports and credit scores frequently. Unauthorized transactions, unfamiliar entries on your credit report and sudden changes in credit scores are signs of fraud to be immediately addressed. Checking your bank activity is something you can do daily, but you can also check two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com and request your free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com.

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Image: iStock

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