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What Is the 'Neighbor Spoofing' Scam?

scam alert
By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. on October 11, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

There seems to be a new scam born every minute, and this one is tricky, on so many levels. You may have already experienced it, but didn't know it's name. The neighbor spoofing scam is used by con artists and robocallers that call your phone, seemingly with a local number, but they are not a local business.

In this scam, not only the area code matches the victim's, but also the next three numbers, or prefix, will appear familiar, tempting you to pick up the phone even though you don't know this exact number. A telemarketers biggest obstacle is getting you to pick up that phone, but by deceiving you into thinking the call is coming from someone local, they easily clear that hurdle, and are one step closer to completing their scam.

Parents and Caregivers at Greatest Risk

Currently, the Better Business Bureau has no solution to this scam other than not picking up the phone for any number you don't recognize. Granted, this will only work some of the time because the more sophisticated spoofers can actually manipulate the phone to post a number from your contacts. The proposed solution is to let everyone leave messages and to call them back. Of course if you call someone and they think it's a spoof, this will become an endless circle.

Unfortunately, people that care for others that have health issues must always pick up a call. Though an emergency call may be incredibly infrequent, the stakes are high, and the cost of taking a call can never outweigh the risk of not taking it. Likewise, parents must always pick up calls. Most parents don't know their children's friend's cell numbers, and seeing a local call could be a child trying to contact a parent from a friend's phone, or maybe a parent informing you that your child is in distress.

Do Not Call Does Not Apply

Having your number on the National Do Not Call registry does little good, especially with this scam. It's sometimes a wonder why this registry even exists. Very few robocallers are ever prosecuted for violating this registry. In fact, since the Do Not Call Registry began in 2003, the Federal Trade Commission, in conjunction with the Department of Justice, has only filed 131 cases against violators, resulting in orders to pay fines of $1.2 billion, as of May 2017. Of that, a mere $71.4 million was actually paid because the scammers are insolvent. The BBB has decided a better way to combat this issue is by making the public aware of the scams through an online database.

Now that you have a name for this tactic, hopefully you can better protect yourself and your family. If you feel you have been the victim of neighbor spoofing scam, contact the BBB. Knowledge is power, and the best way to arm all consumers is to spread the word.

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