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New York State Senator Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, 47th District

It seems like every day I get a call – sometimes multiple – from a phone number that looks familiar. However, when I answer the phone, the voice on the other end often is an automated message telling me that my car’s warranty is out of date or how I can reduce my credit card interest rate.

The people behind these annoying phone calls modify the caller ID that appears on your cell phone to make it look familiar. This technique, called “spoofing,” is often used as part of an attempt to trick someone into giving away valuable personal information so it can be used in fraudulent activity or sold illegally, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

The Better Business Bureau recommends taking the following steps to identify and handle spoofing calls:

·        Avoid answering calls from phone numbers you don’t recognize, even if they appear to be local. If it’s important, the caller will leave a message. 

·        If your own phone number is used in a caller ID spoof call, you may receive calls and messages from people asking why you called them in the first place. This can lead to a lot of confusion between the two parties, but knowing your own number can be used by scammers may help explain the situation. 

·        Be aware that phone numbers of local businesses, including doctor’s offices and/or insurance agents, may appear to be calling you. If you’re not certain whether the call is legitimate or a spoof, hang up and dial the known phone number for the contact to verify the communication, especially if personal and/or financial information is being requested. 

·        There are call blocking apps that may help decrease the amount of spam calls, including those using a spoof caller ID. Your phone carrier may also provide a similar service or offer advice. 

·        Make sure your phone number is on the National Do Not Call Registry. Though it is unlikely to prevent most phone scam calls, it will help to reduce calls received from legitimate telemarketers, which can be helpful in screening fraudulent calls. For more information on the registry, visit www.donotcall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222. 

If you answer a spoofed call, it could indicate to the robocaller that you have an active phone line, according to the Better Business Bureau. This is a valuable resource to scammers, the bureau reports, because it can place your number on a “sucker list,” opening your phone up to even more scam calls.

There are, however, legitimate and legal uses for spoofing, according to the Federal Communications Commission. For instance, a doctor may call a patient from their cell phone, but the office number is displayed. Another example is if a business displays its toll-free call-back number.

While technology such as smart phones can make our lives easier, it also has its drawbacks. I hope that you find this information useful so that you aren’t taken advantage of by disingenuous phone

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