A unique type of technology now enables fraudsters to fake the number they are calling from by making a false number appear on your caller ID. It’s extremely effective, because the number displayed appears to be your bank’s correct contact number.
This scam is called number spoofing, and here’s how it works: criminals clone the actual telephone number of an organization they want to impersonate. Using specialized technology, the number appears on the victim's caller ID display.
Then, when you answer the call, they often pose as bank staff, police officers or other trusted organizations in order to persuade you to disclose sensitive financial and personal details – often on the pretense that fraud has been detected on your account.
In many cases – because a well-known precaution for phone scams is to hang up and initiate the phone call yourself – the criminal will ask you to call the bank on the number on the back of the bank card (the same number displayed on your handset). But instead of terminating the call on their end, the fraudsters simply keep the phone line open, play a fake dialing tone and pretend to answer your “call.”
Having convinced you of their legitimacy, they will then ask you to move money to a secure account, or in some extreme cases, hand your debit or credit cards over to a courier.
While the technology needed to spoof someone’s number has existed for years, the scam itself is a recent phenomenon. Some victims have lost up to thousands of dollars.
If a number appears on your phone’s caller ID display, you shouldn’t necessarily assume you know where the call is originating. Further, if a caller is trying to draw your attention to the number on your phone display, it’s very unlikely the call is genuine, because there is no logical reason to point it out.
The best advice to beat the scam is simple – never assume that someone is who they purport to be just because the number displayed on your caller ID matches that of an organization you know. Always be suspicious if you’re asked for your four-digit PIN or full online banking passwords. Same goes for transferring or withdrawing money or giving your card to a courier. Remember, your bank will never ask you to do any of these things.