Woman looking at her smartphone with a puzzled look on her face

What You Need to Know to Protect Yourself from Spoofing

If you have a phone, whether it’s a mobile phone or landline, or an email, most likely you’ve received a robocall or an unsolicited message that could be a scam. Scammers continuously use sophisticated tactics to take advantage of you or steal your personal and financial information. Spoofing is one way scammers use to deceive you. However, the best weapon of defense against spoofing is knowledge. The more aware and knowledgeable you are about spoofing, the better you can protect yourself. Learn more about what spoofing is, how to avoid spoofing scams, and what to do if you spot a spoofing scam.

What is spoofing?

Spoofing occurs when a scammer tries to disguise their identity as a legitimate business or person with the purpose of trying to gain access to your personal and financial information. Spoofing can be used for harmless pranks or for anonymity for innocent purposes. However, in most cases, spoofing is used for fraudulent purposes to steal from you.

Spoofing can occur through phone calls, text messages, emails, and websites. For example, with spoofing calls, scammers will spoof a random number with the same area code and first three digits of your phone number. When the number appears on your phone, you may be more inclined to answer it because it looks familiar. Scammers do this to entice you to respond to them. They may also spoof the number to look as though it’s coming from a local business, financial institution (like AllSouth), or someone you’ve previously talked to.

When spoofing occurs, oftentimes it’s nearly impossible to trace. If you were to try and call the number back most likely it would no longer be in service or it may direct you to the person’s number that was stolen. This is why it’s important to be extremely careful who you give your personal information to, such as social security number, home address, and bank account information. 

How do you avoid spoofing scams?

  • If you don’t recognize the caller or email sender, don’t respond to it. 
  • Be cautious who you give your number to. You don’t have to share your number with anyone, especially if you feel pressured or unsure.
  • If you answer the call and it prompts you to press a button to stop receiving calls, don’t press it. Also, don’t answer any questions, especially yes or no questions.
  • Be cautious of questions that can be used as a method to verify your identity.
  • If you receive a call from someone claiming to represent a business and they’re asking for your personal information, hang up immediately and call the business back at a legitimate number you’re familiar with. You'll want to make sure it’s a legitimate business before you give your information.
  • Always guard your personal information, such as PIN numbers, account numbers, social security number, your mother’s maiden name, or passwords.
  • Check with your mobile carrier to find out if they offer safeguards to help protect you against scammers by identifying and blocking unwanted calls.
  • One of the best ways to protect yourself is to stay aware. The more knowledge you have about recent scams, the better prepared you are when you receive that unknown and unwanted call. If you want to stay in the know about recent scams and warning signs, you can visit the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) website.
  • One way you can help reduce calls from telemarketers and scammers is to register your mobile and home phone with the National Do Not Call Registry.
  • Don't allow the scammer to pressure or scare you.  They will use scare tactics to pressure you to respond and provide your personal information. For example, they may claim that a loved one is in trouble and needs your help or you’re behind on your taxes to convince you to respond.

What to do if you spot a scam?

If you spot a scam, contact the FTC and file a complaint or call at 1-877-FTC-HELP. Also, spread the word. Tell your family and friends to help protect them from being scammed, especially those who are most vulnerable.

Scammers are here to stay, so never let your guard down. Always be aware and use caution when answering calls, responding to text messages, emails, and visiting websites. For more information on how to protect yourself and your identity, visit our Fraud Center.
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