Caller ID may be a lie

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Column by Cathy Williamson

By Cathy Williamson

As more and more people reject calls from unfamiliar numbers, scammers are adapting to ensure their calls are answered. By using technology to spoof a familiar business, organization or even your own number, these scammers are pretending to be someone they are not.

Scammers know you’re more likely to answer a call if you recognize the area code, business or name that appears on caller ID. These scammers take advantage of this fact and pretend to be something or somewhere they are not.

Some complaints have surfaced of automated messages asking victims to verify their credit card number in order to receive lower interest rates. Also, instances of persistent and high pressure sales calls are reported.

This doesn’t mean you can never answer your phone again. It’s OK to answer a call from a familiar number and often the calls are so persistent there’s no other option but to pick up.

If the call is an automatic recording or if it’s not the person you thought it was, hang up. If you do pick up, do not answer questions, or enter personal account information.

Also, if you receive a missed call from an unfamiliar number, don’t call back. You could end up with a fee on your cellular bill for calling out of the country.

How are the scammers getting your phone number?

It’s likely you gave it away by sharing it at retail stores, entering it in an online form or submitting it with giveaway applications. Some companies sell consumer’s contact information and all scammers have to do is purchase the lists. Don’t give your phone number to everyone who asks.

The worst part about this scam is it’s not illegal. Caller ID Spoofing is legal and easy to do. A simple Google search will bring up dozens of sites that offer spoofing technology.

The federal Truth in Caller ID Act states that spoofing is only illegal if it’s used in a “harmful manner,” such as trying to get someone’s Social Security number. Unfortunately, sales calls are not considered harmful and if it is a scammer, they just don’t care.


  • Once you know the call is a spoof, add the number to your rejection list. You can do this online or through your service provider.
  • Remember, if you did not initiate the call, do not give any personal information away.

For more tips, go to bbb.org or call 1-800-388-2222.

Cathy Williamson is manager of the Lincoln Trail Area branch of the Better Business Bureau. She can be reached at 270-982-1289 or cwilliamson@bbbkyin.org.