Staff Columnist

Spoofed: Cross my heart; it wasn't me

(Photo Illustration by Liz Martin/The Gazette)
(Photo Illustration by Liz Martin/The Gazette)

My first indication that something was amiss was a call to my mobile phone Friday morning.

“Hi, I just got back in my truck and saw that I missed a call from this number,” the man explained.

I was baffled because I hadn’t made any calls. I was in my pajamas and knee-deep in the morning rituals that surround getting two teenagers out of bed and out the door.

I had shrugged it off when, about 15 minutes later, my phone rang again. This time a woman was phoning and she was angry. The moment the call connected she began a rant laced with expletives.

“Are you calling about one of my columns?” I asked when she took a breath. She said I and “all the others” should stop calling before hanging up.

Within five minutes the next call rang. The man informed me that he wanted his number removed from my calling list. When I explained that I didn’t have a calling list, he told me he had just received a call from my number, a recording that offered to lower his credit card interest rate.

“Oh, no,” I said, immediately understanding what was happening. “I didn’t call you. I think my phone number is being spoofed.” The man replied, “Well, that sucks for you.” He had no idea how much.

Phone or caller ID spoofing is when calls are made from one phone system that appear as if they are originating from a different phone system.

I get calls like this all the time. They appear to come from local phone numbers, offering a recording from “Rachel” (most often) that says the call is about my credit card account. “It appears that you are now eligible for a significantly lower interest rate on your account.”

If you keep listening to the robocall, you’ll hear that “Rachel” wants you to hit a certain number on your keypad so that she can connect with you a representative. Never, never do this; it’s a scam.

The Federal Trade Commission has shut down many of these scams, but new ones pop up each day in the U.S. and overseas. Each one of these operations can make millions of calls, and they’ve learned, if they contact people from local numbers, their marks are much more likely to answer.

So, just hang up. Then visit complaints.donotcall.gov on your computer or call 1-(888) 382-1222 to report. This is important because if the scammers are caught, the government can penalize them for each illegal call they’ve made.

I knew all of this — probably many reading this column do as well. But I had no clue what to do if my number was spoofed.

After speaking with my mobile carrier what I discovered was, at best, unsatisfying. I had to wait it out. Nefarious call centers like this churn through spoofed numbers somewhat quickly, I was told.

In my case, no disgruntled or confused callers have reached out since Sunday afternoon.

I stopped answering calls from numbers not in my contact list between Friday and Monday, and I changed my voice mail greeting to indicate what was happening. If I could have, I would have laid my phone to rest in a sock drawer.

Hopefully, the bulk of the nightmare has passed. But, if you do get a call from my number about your credit card rates, feel free to hang up.

• Comments: @LyndaIowa, (319) 368-8513, lynda.waddington@thegazette.com

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