TARGET 8: Phone scam spoofing numbers, tricking callers
JEFFERSON CITY - A different kind of phone scam is emerging — leaving businesses and others vulnerable.
Now, there are even phone apps to help scammers steal your information. It’s called spoofing — using a different number other than your own to trick the person you’re calling. It’s not new, but it can be considered a crime in some capacities.
KOMU 8 News began looking into this type of scam after a viewer emailed us:
"The other day I got a call like that but it had a local number on my caller ID. I Googled the number and discovered it was the Columbia Police training division. I called them and advised that someone was spoofing their number to make sales calls. Twice in the past two weeks I have received calls from people who said they had gotten sales type calls and my cell showed up on their caller ID. I told them I did not call them. Somehow these people are able to put someone else's phone number on call waiting but calling from a different number."
Under the Truth in Caller ID Act, it’s unlawful for any person within the United States to transmit misleading or inaccurate caller identification information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value.
Private Investigator Melinda Kidder said if you’re in doubt about the identity or the validity of someone who's calling, hang up and tell them you’ll call them back. Then call the actual person directly or law enforcement. She said this type of scam is different because it looks real.
“The caller ID gives it legitimacy to a lot of people,” Kidder said. “It makes it look like they really are who they say they are so when you see the caller ID as coming from law enforcement or a company with whom you’ve dealt, it looks accurate. It looks like it’s believable and that you should actually listen to them and pay attention to what they have to say.”
The Missouri State Treasurer’s Office recently had an encounter with a scammer using its caller ID and pretending to be intelligence officers or special agents. State Treasurer Eric Schmitt said his office has zero tolerance for this kind of fraudulent activity.
“We issued a release right away, making people aware of these fraudsters claiming to be from the state treasurer’s office,” Schmitt said. "And I think what the most important thing is for people to be aware is that we will never call anyone related to these tax issues nor do we actually handle tax payment.”
Schmitt said they are working with law enforcement and the state attorney general’s office.
“We’re going to try to track down who these people are and prosecute them for fraud or whatever we can do under the law because they you can’t call and act as you’re some government agent asking for people’s money,” Schmitt said.
Schmitt said victims of this type of call should report it to the attorney general’s office, but Kidder said this type of scam is hard to track down by law enforcement.
“It’s harder for them to track down the original caller,” Kidder said. “They would have to subpoena actual spoof companies so but I don’t think it’s necessarily harder to report. People can go ahead and report it directly to the company that the person is spoofing or law enforcement.”
According to the attorney general's office, 4,068 phone scams were reported in the last five years.
Spoofing can occur in many different ways.
“You have so many ways that people try and steal your information whether it’s in person, by phone, by email, by text,” Kidder said.
Kidder said it’s never a good idea to give out your personal information.
“If you wouldn’t give it to your grandma, why give it to a stranger,” Kidder said. “Why give it to someone you don’t know so value that information and remember that this is your livelihood potentially that’s at risk.”
And if the IRS is calling, Kidder said you have nothing to worry about.
“For them to call you would be extremely rare,” Kidder said. “You would already have some kind of case ongoing with them for them to call you. So, for the IRS to call would be unlikely. They would most likely send a letter and that in itself you would want to verify as well."