I often get asked what phone spoofing is. Spoofing, as defined by the Verizon.com website, is:
- Caller ID spoofing is the process of changing the Caller ID to any number other than the actual calling number.
- Caller ID spoofing happens when a caller knowingly falsifies the info transmitted to disguise the number they're calling from.
- The number that displays on your caller ID may look as though it's coming from a government agency, business, or even someone in your contacts list in an attempt to trick you into answering the call.
It basically means a person or persons use a piece of software to make it look like a phone call is coming from someone else on your caller ID screen. We've had incidents where the caller made it look like we (the PRPD) was calling the victim to come arrest them for allegedly not paying their taxes. It made even a very aware person start to believe the scam; thankfully they did the right thing and called us directly and confirmed it was a scam.
Spoofed calls occur daily, my phone included. The best recommendation is if you don't know the number, let it go to voicemail. The NUMBER ONE WAY to confirm it's a scam is to look up the actual number to the agency, business, police department, etc that is allegedly calling you and call them directly to inquire if they in fact called you. For example:
You get a call from an unidentified number, pick it up, and speak with someone claiming to be from the IRS. They claim you are late on your taxes and they will put a warrant out for your arrest if you don't pay immediately over the phone. [Something doesn't seem right, I know I paid my taxes] OR [They're right, I am late, but usually it's a letter in the mail] - if your gut is telling you something isn't right, it probably isn't. Get the person's name and extension and hang up. There's a good chance they'll hang up on you when you start asking identifying information. Use the internet or phone book to look up your local IRS office and call them directly. Ask them if the information is accurate and if they called you.
Most federal, state and local government agencies do not call you for money, they send mailers. The same goes for most utility companies. Even the most attentive people misplace a bill or forget to pay it from time-to-time, but don't fall prey to scammers because of it! Get an old bill and call the company directly to find out if you are past-due and arrange payment the way you normally would. If there is ever a question don't hesitate to call us and we'll confirm it for you!
NO LEGITIMATE COMPANY OR AGENCY WILL EVER ASK FOR PAYMENT VIA GIFT CARDS OR WESTERN UNION!!! JUST HANG UP!