Tag Archives: Caller ID

What If I Don’t Have Caller ID?

I’m guilty of assuming everyone has caller ID these days. While the feature may be baked right into mobile phones, caller ID service for landline phones is still a feature you usually have to pay extra for. And some people don’t want to.

So how should these holdouts handle telephone scams?

My advice is: get on the list and be quick on the draw. First, add your number to the National Do-Not-Call Registry. Once it takes effect, it will weed out all the legitimate, non-scam phone calls. Anyone who calls with an offer or sales pitch after that is obviously ignoring federal regulations and can be assumed to be attempting to commit fraud. If you’ve answered the phone, hang up as soon as you realize what’s happening.

Second, the vast majority of scammers use automated robocalls, where they ring multiple phones at once and then connect with whomever answers first. That setup takes a moment to function, and causes recognizable audio artifacts. If you’ve answered the phone and don’t get a response within a second or so, you can assume it is a robocall and hang up. If you answer and the first thing you hear is electronic noises (little clicks, bloops, beeps, etc.) or silence, it’s safe to assume you’re dealing with a robocall and hang up.

If you’ve hung up on a legitimate caller, they’ll call back.

Failing the quick-draw hang-up technique, if you find yourself talking to an unexpected caller, the old rules still apply: if they’re trying to make you afraid, it’s probably a scam; if the offer sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam; never wire money to a stranger; the IRS doesn’t call to demand payment over the phone; you didn’t win the lottery; your grandchild isn’t in jail or a hospital overseas; your computer doesn’t have a virus; never press “1” for any reason.

You’re under no obligation to be polite to someone who is trying to trick you out of your money over the phone. You’re allowed to just hang up without explanation.

Stop calling back every number in your “missed calls” list

Today, I received a phone call from a stranger who demanded to know who I was. No greeting, just “who’s this?”

I declined to answer (because we don’t give out ANY personal information to people who call us, right, class?), instead telling them that it seemed they had the wrong number. This person then insisted that I had called them, and they wanted to know why.

“I didn’t call you. I haven’t called anyone today,” I replied. (I wasn’t even stretching the truth for emphasis—other than a couple text messages and posting something about Beethoven’s birthday [Happy 245th, Viggy!] on a social media account, I had not used my phone for communication purposes all day. I still haven’t, actually.)

“It says you called me,” they said.

“Maybe there’s a mistake,” I offered. I have an incredibly easy-to-mis-dial mobile number, and I figured someone had called them from one of the several same-digits-in-same-order-but-different-quantity-of-each phone numbers that exist.

They just hung up, because of course they did. Hopefully this person had simply mis-dialed and realized their mistake.

But there is a more sinister possibility, here: scam callers almost always use fake caller ID. There is a possibility that my number was the one they happened to use for a round of scam calls; this caller did share both the area code and interchange with my number.

Now, if that was what happened in this case, the damage is limited. They called the spoofed phone number back, which happened to be mine. I explained that I didn’t make any calls, they got angry and hung up, I blocked their number (just in case, and also because I was a little annoyed as well).

But what if a scam call had been placed using a number that was attached to a phone number owned by the perpetrators? This person might have, in going through their list of missed calls, run straight into a trap designed to steal money, personal information, or both.

I wasn’t aware of this until recently, but it appears that a lot of people look at their “missed calls” list every day, and call back every single number. Because of the very real possibility of running headlong into fraud, I cannot recommend against this activity strongly enough.

If someone is truly calling for a legitimate, important reason, they will leave a message or call back later. There is no good reason to try to find out what’s on the other end of every single random phone number that attempts to reach you every day. A lot of those calls are going to be from people you do not want in your life.

(Some of the numbers you do recognize may be, too, but that’s outside the scope of this article…)

FTC sues three companies for violations of new robocall rules.

The FTC is taking three companies to task for violations of the new rules regarding automated “robocalls,” which were passed last September.

All three companies used caller ID spoofing (for example, the caller would appear as “Card Services”) to lure victims into paying fees as high as $1,495 for a credit card interest rate renegotiation. Calls would begin with a prerecorded message. Recipients who pressed “1” would be transferred to a telemarketer who would attempt to sell the service.

Those interest rate negotiations never happened, by the way. Victims simply lost several hundred dollars. One company was also selling worthless auto “warranty extensions” on the side.

The FTC has a real laundry list of complaints against all three entities, including:

  1. Calling consumers whose phone numbers are on the National Do Not Call Registry
  2. Calling consumers who had previously asked not to be called
  3. Failing to transmit their caller ID information, as required
  4. Masking their caller ID information
  5. Failing to promptly identify themselves, the purpose of their call, and/or the nature of the goods or services they were selling
  6. Improperly abandoning calls
  7. Failing to make required disclosures in their robocalls.

It’s a real violation gumbo. The three companies named in the suit are:

  • Economic Relief Technologies, LLC
  • Dynamic Financial Group (U.S.A.) Inc.
  • JPM Accelerated Services (JPM)

Punks. I hope the FTC shuts them down completely, and I hope the people behind these operations aren’t able to hide behind their “LLC” and “Inc.” designations. Doesn’t criminal law apply to these swindlers, too?

Once again, though, this all just goes to show something: namely, that you should never pay anyone a fee for help with your credit card debt, and always check out who you’re dealing with beforehand.

Of course, when they’re blatantly lying about who they are, it might be more difficult. I guess the first question to ask yourself is, “Did I contact them, or did they contact me first?”

If you contacted them, and did your homework, you’re probably OK.

If they contaced you, you’re looking at a scam.

Gone Vishin’

It’s 9:30 at night when the phone rings.

The Caller ID displays “Card Services” and a toll-free number.

You pick up the phone, and an automated voice informs you that “your card has been compromised.” It gives you a phone number to call to take care of the issue. The phone number is the same number on the Caller ID display.

Now…what should you do?

If you answered, “hang up and ignore the call,” you’re right.

Currently, there is a move towards integrating older technologies with the Internet. Eventually, I believe these technologies will be fully integrated; your television signal, Internet connection and telephone service will all be traveling along the exact same lines as part of the same service. These different technologies will also become more “seamless” over time—there will be less of a distinct divide between how you use your TV and your computer, and between the content you will receive from both. Okay, you’ll probably still use your phone to call Mom, but the signal will be digital, and it will be traveling through the Internet.

However, there is a downside, at least for the time being: vishing. Using Internet telephone services (Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP), criminals are able to spoof Caller ID information, to make a phone call appear to be from a trusted entity such as a financial institution or credit card issuer.

Let’s face it, you’re more likely to believe a call from “Card Services” than you are a “Blocked Call” or “Unknown Caller.” And that’s the basis of how Vishing works.

What happens if you call the number as instructed? You will be instructed to enter your credit or debit card number, expiration date, PIN and other security information. This is pretty much everything a crook needs to use your card for fraudulent purposes. They might also attempt to get your personal information, such as date of birth or Social Security number—basically, everything they would need to commit identity theft.