How often do you get a phone call (especially on your cell phone) from a number you don’t recognize? If I see a call come in and my phone displays just a phone number, I immediately will google the number to find out if it’s spam.
Who hasn’t been called by the “IRS” leaving you a voicemail stating that there’s a warrant out for your arrest. Or phone calls from your local area code and prefix (949-922) and a different last four digits. Scammers call this neighbor spoofing. They call from what appears to be a local number, and you’d be more likely to answer the phone because maybe you’re thinking this call could be my neighbor or my kid’s school, someone you know.
Even the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, cannot escape these calls. He even gets these calls on his FCC-issued BlackBerry. (Wait, what’s more shocking is that the FCC still uses BlackBerries.) Pai will even answer the phone once in a while. He was told he won a Marriott vacation!
Did you know that Russia’s area code is 499?
The FCC is doubling down and making the fight against spoofers a top priority. Robocalls and telemarketers are the No. 1 complaint the agency gets from the public. New technology has made spoofing easier to do and harder to detect. Last year, people received about 2.5 billion robocalls every month. It is hugely lucrative for scam artists. Call centers that were uncovered in India just last year were generating something like $150,000 every single day from American consumers who, upon receiving a call purporting to be from the IRS, were, naturally, scared—especially if they were elderly, or recent immigrants and the like-and were shelling out over money, even if they didn’t owe it.
I received the best scam call last Thursday. A call came in from 499-227-8394. I didn’t think 499 was a United States area code, so off to Google I went. The page came up in Russian! I don’t know how the call went through without an obvious (to me) country code, and other required numbers. I didn’t answer the call, of course. I think the president was in Russia on Thursday last week, so maybe his administration was trying to call and offer me a cabinet position.