All this time, we’ve told you if you don’t know who is calling on the phone, don’t answer. But what if the scammers know how to make it look like you know who’s calling?
“It is scary cause I think of, myself, how many times I’ve looked at caller ID and answered the phone assuming it to be a legitimate call,” says Sgt. Craig Sawyer with the Fairhope Police Department.
It’s known as caller ID “spoofing”. They mask the real number they’re calling from. A woman in Fairhope got a call that sounded like your average scam phone call—saying they were a debt collection agency.
“She thought she was sending money to a legitimate company, found out later it was a fraudulent or fictitious company so she stopped the payment,” says Sawyer.
After she stopped payment, though, she got another call.
“The caller ID identified the caller as the Fairhope police department and actually used our real phone number on the caller ID,” says Sawyer.
The foreign-sounding man told her if she didn’t go through with the payment, they would have her arrested.
The scary thing is, this scam is very easy to duplicate, it’s just an app you can download on your phone or personal computer.
“Started off as a joke so you could spoof your friends, pretend you’re someone else or call them anonymously, but scammers, like everything else, they’ve taken advantage of this,” says Sgt. Joe Mahoney with the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office.
Fairhope PD has gotten several complaints, saying scammers are spoofing the police department, the city of Fairhope, and local utility companies. So even though you can’t trust the caller ID, there are other red flags to look for.
“But just keep in mind, they’re not going to call you and threaten you with putting you in jail if you don’t make a payment right then over the phone,” says Mahoney.
The police will not demand payment over the phone, neither will anyone with the city or a utility company. A real company may ask you to make a payment, but they won’t threaten you with jail time. If you’re ever wary, just hang up, look up the real number of the agency and call them to ask.