Be alert for fake ID phone scams


Times Leader Staff Writer

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Spoofing is the term for a phone scam in which a caller uses software to falsify information appearing on the recipient’s caller ID, and scammers have begun targeting area seniors by posing as Belmont County Senior Services.

Senior Services Director Gary Armitage cautions senior citizens to be wary, adding that impostors have used his office’s number for false identification.

“I became aware of this Friday morning. There’s a phone scam out there,” he said.

“There’s technology out there where they can steal your caller ID number and call you and give your number to the person they’re calling,” he said.

“I had a county citizen … he called me Friday morning and told me he’d got a call from someone identifying themselves as Senior Services, trying to sell insurance. I reassured him that we do not sell anything. We do not bill the consumer ever directly, nor do I endorse products like that for others to sell. But when his caller ID showed the number, it was our number. I’ve reported it to the authorities, and I’ve also contacted our telephone provider. … There’s very little that can be done at present to stop this practice, and apparently you can buy this software on the net, but it is illegal to do it fraudulently, which is what this person was doing, stealing our main number. Now when somebody called that number, they called us. They couldn’t steal that number, just the ID of the number.”

He added that he has put the word out to the area seniors.

“I told them that it had happened and to be very vigilant about giving any information to anybody over the phone that calls you out of the blue, even us,” he said. “My phone company told me there’s nothing they can do to stop somebody from doing this. There’s no counter software to it at this point, and apparently the government has not made it illegal, just if you use it illegally.”

Armitage said it is necessary to be cautious of anyone speaking through the phone.

“If we’re getting hit, anybody could get hit, and I don’t want my seniors (to be targeted) and they’re very trusting people if they know who you are, to think that we’re trying to hock some kind of insurance,” he said.

The Belmont County Sheriff’s Department has been alerted, but officials said spoofing incidents are rare due to the level of sophistication required.

“Spoofing has been out for awhile,” Chief Deputy James Zusack said. “Spoofing’s pretty hard to do. It’s very complex, but it does happen occasionally. We don’t get very many spoofing calls.”

He added that a clever scammer can often gain information under the cover of a false caller ID.

“It’s hard to know you’ve even been spoofed. You don’t know it until it happens. It’s just hard to calculate when that might happen,” Zusack added.

The Federal Communications Commission advises people to never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, a mother’s maiden name, a password or other such identifying information during an unexpected call, or if the recipient’s suspicions are raised.

In the event of receiving a call from someone claiming to represent a company or government agency, it is best to hang up and call the official number. People should be cautious if they are being pressured for information immediately.

Anyone with a voice mail account with their phone service is advised to set a password to prevent a scammer spoofing the home phone number to gain access to their target’s voice mail.


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