If you have been getting a lot of phone calls recently that seem like scams, you are not alone.
Scammers are increasingly using a technique called “spoofing” to try to trick unsuspecting callers into sending money or giving out personal information.
If you have ever gotten a call from a number that looks very similar to your own, it is most likely a scammer masking their real number with one similar to yours.
“Spoofing is pretending to be something you are not,” said Kyle Bubp, principal consultant for Knoxville-based Savage Security. “It’s become a lot easier for attackers to spoof their number. You can Google phone number spoofing and you can find free tools to do it today.”
A new law signed by Tennessee's Gov. Bill Haslam charges phone scammers and fines them if they use a misleading or false phone number to make a scam call. The law takes effect July 1.
Scammers who are caught could face a misdemeanor charge and fines up to $10,000.
“My number has actually called me before,” said Sarah Reed, a Knoxville woman who has recently received countless scam calls.
She now uses an app called Hiya to alert her when a phone call may be a scam.
“It’s flagged as a scam and when it rings it shows up red and it gave me the option to block it so I block it and they cannot call me," Reed explained.
The City of Oak Ridge was also recently the target of “spoofing.”
Scammers used a false city phone number to try and access information from their finance department.
“It sounded somewhat legit, and we checked it out and it was certainly a scam,” said Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson. “If it’s hitting us, it’s also hitting others in the community.”
If you think that a call may be a scam, the easiest thing to do is ignore the call and let it go to voicemail, according to Bubp.
Here are some tips to prevent spoofing from happening to you:
- Apps like Hiya or Truecaller work to screen calls coming in
- Cell phone carriers have spam blocking as an option for customers
- You can add your number to the National Do Not Call Registry, but it only works if the scammer is inside the U.S.
- Report the scam to the Better Business Bureau
- Call the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Division of Consumer Affairs at 615-741-4737