Watch Out for New ‘Neighbor Spoofing’ Phone Scam

If you’ve been receiving numerous phone calls from numbers that look eerily similar to your own, you’re not alone.

A new phone scam has been making its ways around the nation, called “Neighbor Spoofing.” With Neighbor Spoofing, scammers make phone calls from numbers that have the same area code and pre-fix (first 3 digits) as the victim’s phone number, but the last 4 digits are slightly different. In some cases, the phone call may come from the victim’s actual phone number.

The idea behind this scam is that you’re more likely to answer a call from an unfamiliar number if it appears close to yours. Scammers count on this. They want to you believe the call is coming from a local doctor’s office, a family member’s school, or even a neighbor. 1 However, once you pick up, it’s clear that the call is a scam. The scammers often pose as a debt collector, travel company, someone from your phone or internet provider, a city official, or someone warning you about a data breach – whatever it takes to get money from you. 1

Simply answering one of these calls can enable the scammers to add fraudulent charges to the victim’s phone bill or obtain sensitive information, such as social security or credit card numbers. 2 In 2016, 22.1 million Americans lost more than $9.5 billion to phone scams. 3

In August, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) unveiled a new system to track and block these annoying (and often illegal) calls. 3

What you can do to help:

  • Make sure you subscribe to the FTC’s Do Not Call Registry to help cut down on calls from telemarketers. 1 I subscribed last weekend, and the number of calls I received dropped dramatically. I used to receive anywhere from 2-5 calls a day, and I’ve only received 2 calls in the past week since I registered.
  • Ignore phone calls from unknown numbers, even those that appear to be from your area. Once you pick up, you’re telling the system that made the call that your phone number is real, and you may begin to receive more calls. 1
  • Don’t use your phone number to register for services unless it’s required. Scammers can get your phone number from a number of places, including stores that you’ve given your phone number to. 1
  • If you do answer one of these calls, take notes (such as the phone number, date and time, what the call was about, and whether it was a recording or live person) and file a complaint on the FTC’s website: https://complaints.donotcall.gov/complaint/complaintcheck.aspx 3

1 What is neighbor spoofing?
2 Scam alert: Fraudsters will now call you from your own phone number
3 Relief from those annoying robocalls

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