Con artists always tend to be one step ahead when it comes to finding ways to trick us so they can steal our time, money, identity or security. One of the most recent tactics is the use of neighborhood spoofing, using phone numbers with an area code and first three digits that match our own. This could be an 831 area code from Santa Cruz, Aptos, or Capitola, a 408 area code from Los Gatos, Saratoga, or Sunnyvale or 650 from Mountain View, Los Altos, or Palo Alto coupled with the three digit prefix.
Also called NPA-NXX spoofing, telemarketers, scammers and robo callers utilize third party technology to hijack personal and local business phone numbers. NPA or Number Plan Area, is the designation for area codes while the next three numbers indicate the local exchange, noted by NXX, also referred to as the “central office code”. The last three digits in our phone number is our unique identifier. Spoofers use the NPA and NXX numbers, which show up in your caller ID, making it appear that someone you might know is calling you. This tends to entice people to answer their phones even if they don’t recognize the number. Scam artists use technology to capitalize on this basic psychology that we are more likely to pick up the phone if the number looks similar to our own.
The Better Business Bureau makes these recommendations to minimize receiving these spoofed calls:
- Add your number to the Do Not Call Registry. This may not reduce neighborhood spoofing calls but it will minimize call s from legitimate telemarketers, making spoofed calls that much easier to identify.
- Do not answer any all from a number you do not recognize. If it is important, the caller will leave a voice message. If they don’t, chances are, it is a spam call. By answering a call, you’ve let spoofers know that your number is active. They then place you on what’s known as a ‘sucker list’, increasing your odds of getting even more of these annoying phone calls.
- If you start receiving calls from people asking if you called them, your own number may have been hijacked. If this happens, report this to the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker.
- Consider installing an app on your Smartphone that can help identify and block probable spoofed calls. Apps like RoboKiller or those offered by your mobile provider utilize a national database of prominent NPA-NXX phone numbers that are being used by spammers.
It is important to be cognizant of these insidious neighborhood spoofing calls to protect our identity, finances, and security. These types of illegal telemarketing calls are becoming more and more commonplace and the people behind them only have nefarious intentions. For more information on how to protect yourself or to learn about recent scam alerts, visit the Federal Trade Commission website.