MILWAUKEE - If you recently received a scam call from your own phone number (or a very similar number), you aren't alone. People across the United States and Canada are reporting calls from lookalike numbers. It's a newly popular technique that scammers use to trick targets into picking up.
How the scam works
Your cellphone or home phone rings. When you look at the number calling, you get a shock. It's your phone number! No matter how curious you may be, don't answer it. The person on the other end is part of a scam.
A wide variety of cons are using this phone number spoofing ploy. They may be impersonating the IRS, claiming to collect a debt, or even pretending to be computer tech support.
Variations of this con also spoof similar phone numbers. The area code and first three digits will be the same as yours, but scammers will vary the last four. This is because targets are more likely to pick up if they think the call is from someone nearby.
Phone scam tips
Don't answer unfamiliar numbers. Use Caller ID to screen your calls and just don't answer if you don't recognize the number. If someone really needs to reach you, they will leave a message.
Just hang up and don't call back. It is tempting to get the last word, but you may end up giving scammers information they can use later.
Don't believe Caller ID. Caller ID spoofing makes it easy for callers to pretend to be someone else. Scammers have also posed as everyone from immigration authorities to utility company representatives to local police.
Join the Do Not Call Registry (DoNotCall.gov). This cuts down on telemarketing and sales calls. Although it won't stop scammers, you'll get fewer calls, making it easier to spot the fraudulent ones.
Always check your credit card, phone, and cable statements carefully for any unfamiliar charges. If you suspect you have been victimized, call the billing company and dispute anything you did not authorize.
Learn more about caller ID spoofing in this tip from the Federal Trade Commission website.
To learn more about scams, go to bbb.org/scamtips. To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker.
For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.bbb.org/wisconsin or 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), 920-734-4352 (Appleton), or 1-800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin).
Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on Twitter, Facebook and You Tube.