The call is not coming from inside the house

Patricia Hafermann • Benefit Specialist

Are you getting calls from your own phone number? Or, maybe from a number that looks like it could be a neighbor, a local business, or even a government agency, but when you answer it’s a telemarketer or collection agency?

Scammers know that when your phone rings and it looks like a local call or a government agency, you may be more likely to answer. They can easily fake the number that shows up on your caller ID, which is called “caller ID spoofing.” This also lets them get around call-blocking services and the National Do Not Call Registry.

Even government agencies’ phone numbers have been spoofed. Last year, a woman in Jacksonville, Florida, received a call that looked like it was coming from the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG). The caller told her that she had won a $9,000 grant from the federal government and all she had to do was either wire $250 to him through Western Union or give him the confirmation code for a $250 iTunes gift card. The man also wanted her to confirm her name, address and some other personal facts. She became suspicious and eventually ended the call.

Although the woman didn’t send money, she was scammed into confirming and giving out personal information that could be used to steal money from her bank account or for other fraudulent activity. She wasn’t the only one who received a phone call like this. The OIG hotline phone number for reporting fraud —1-800-HHSTIPS (1-800-447-8477) — had been spoofed. Thousands of calls using the spoofed number were made to people across the nation.

Just a reminder: The federal government will not call you unless you called them first. If the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or any other agency needs to reach you, they will contact you by mail.

If you see a number that you’re not sure about on your caller ID, remember that it could be faked. Letting calls go to voicemail is one option. If you do pick up and don’t recognize the caller — hang up. Don’t be fooled by a caller’s knowledge of your name or any other personal information. Never give out or confirm personal financial or other sensitive information like your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number unless you know the company or person with whom you are speaking. Scammers can use your information to commit identity theft.

You can report unwanted calls to the Federal Trade Commission at https://complaints. aspx. Reporting these calls helps phone companies that are working on ways to block these calls. Your report will also help law enforcement identify scammers making these calls.

If you have any additional questions, you may call Pat Hafermann, Elderly Benefits Specialist with the Aging and Disability Resource Center at (920) 467-4076.

Sources: Published with permission from the Legal Services Team at the Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources

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