If you’ve noticed an increase in the number of calls you receive in which an unknown number has your area code, you’re not alone.
“You might see it and think, ‘Oh, it’s probably someone I know but their caller ID isn’t coming up,” said Jeremy Johnson, the marketplace manager for the Better Business Bureau Northwest.
Its called neighbor spoofing. Scammers disguising as other numbers that look like your’s so you’ll answer.
“If you don’t know who’s calling you, just don’t pick up. If it is someone who needs you, most of the time they’ll leave a voicemail and you can call them back,” Johnson said.
You can report these numbers, block them and, more effectively, put yourself on a do not call list.
“It just wants a way to get your information and get you to pick up. We do say one thing: If you do pick up and it leads you to push numbers or do anything, don’t do any of that. If you pick up, and it’s not someone you know, hang up immediately,” Johnson said.
Here are other tips you can use right now to battle robocallers:
If you do answer a robocall, remain silent. Robocallers use gimmicks to detect valid, active phone numbers, and once they know your number is active, they will call you over and over again. Download a scam call detection app on your cellphone. Never give out personal information over the phone.
And there is a more specific scam that goes along with this Valentine’s Day, called a romance scam.
It is similar to catfishing, but on a different level in which money is involved.
The biggest group to get caught up in this is people who are online looking for a relationship. Unfortunately, when they are meeting people online, sometimes the people they meet can be scammers, such as catfishers.
The big difference with the romance scam, however, is that the scammer may eventually ask for money. They build up trust in the relationship to a point at which asking for money isn’t an issue.
“There was a lady in Alaska and she started online chatting with someone in Malaysia. That person continued to talk. Eventually, after a year or so, started asking for money and all of these things. Once it happened, I think after about three years, she’d given him $5,000. She asked if he wanted to meet and all communication ceased,” Johnson said.
There is no typical victim of romance fraud. The common denominator is that the victim is seeking a loving relationship, and they believe they have found it.
Scammers often portray themselves as U.S. military members, and the majority of romance fraud comes from West Africa, Russia and the Ukraine.
If you feel that you’ve been victimized, report it to the BBB, the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI.