THE CONCERN: Caller Identification, or “Caller ID,” allows you to identify a caller before you answer your telephone. A caller’s number and/or name are displayed on your phone. BUT the Caller ID service is susceptible to fraud. Using a technique known as “caller ID spoofing,” impostors can deliberately falsify the telephone number as the Caller ID information to disguise the identity of the calling party. They can also mimic a legitimate company name to lure consumers to believe the incoming call comes from a recognizable business.

For example, BBB received a call last week from a frustrated consumer who received a phone call from a local church, according to her caller ID. As she stated, “I don’t normally answer unknown calls, but since it was a church calling, I answered the call.” The person on the other end, however, was not with the church. “It’s not right to pretend to be a church!” she exclaimed. BBB agrees.

To help the IRS scam appear more legitimate when the con men call, they “spoof” the 212 area code onto their potential victims caller IDs, since this is the Washington, D.C., area. If you get a strange call from the government, just hang up. Government employees do not call out of the blue and demand money or account information; they will mail you correspondence if you owe money.

Just last month, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey warned consumers about a spike in phone calls from scam artists posing as three local businesses — two medical clinics and an automobile repair shop. Morrisey’s office reportedly received more than 600 calls from consumers questioning why a company representative had called the consumer’s phone asking for personal, identifiable information. The businesses had reported their employees did not make the calls in question. Instead, the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division believes those receiving the calls were likely the victims of call spoofing.

BBB TIPS FOR MANAGING UNSOLICITED CALLS:

n Never give your personal information. Don’t give out, or confirm, your personal or financial information in response to an unsolicited call.

n Stay calm. If you are feeling pressured to act immediately, hang up. That’s a sure sign of a scam.

n Verify. When unsure, hang up the phone and call the company directly to verify the legitimacy of the call.

n Do not trust Caller ID. Your phone’s screen might display the number or name of a familiar and trusted person, but it can be a fake.

n Don’t answer unknown calls (or your own number). Allow these calls to go to voicemail where you can monitor them better. Return the call only if you recognize who is calling. If you received a voice message with any sort of offer, do not call them back.

n Never press No. 1. If you answer and get a recorded message, do not press any buttons. Doing so confirms your number is good and can lead to even more annoying calls in the future.

n Trust your instincts. If something does not seem right or seems too good to be true, hang up.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: If you’ve received a call from a scammer, with or without fake caller ID information, report it to the FTC at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov and the FCC at consumercomplaints.fcc.gov.

Better Business Bureau, serving Canton Region and Greater West Virginia, offers tips and advice for consumers to avoid fraudulent practices. Visit bbb.org/canton or call 330-454-9401 to look up a business, file a complaint, write a customer review, read tips and more.

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