By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC 

Spam phone call concept photoIdentity theft is something we all have to worry about in the digital age. 

One of the most common ways identity thieves steal your information is by tricking you into giving them your information. This is known as spoofing. This is a technique in which scammers call you from a number that appears to be your bank or other similar institution. 

The goal is to get you to share personal information such as your passwords, bank account records, or Social Security numbers so that scammers can steal your identity or commit other criminal acts. 

In addition to phone calls, there are other ways spoofers can try to trick you. Phishing is when spoofers send emails from a fake email account that may appear to be from a credible institution, like the bank, your employer, or the IRS. Smishing works like phishing except it is over email. Spoofing can also be applied to fake websites that ask users who think they are the real thing to enter their private information. Spoofing websites can also infect user’s computers with dangerous malware. 

How to spot spoofing

Requests for personal information. Spoofing calls and messages can be identified by their requests for your personal information. Your bank will not call or email you asking you to verify your personal information. Likewise, the IRS informs taxpayers about back taxes owed by mail, not phone calls. 

Typos and other errors. Spelling and grammar errors and unusual wording or phrasing is a good giveaway that it’s a spoofed email. 

Incorrect address information. If you look closely, you should be able to spot errors in the email address or URL. If the email has address information at the bottom, it won’t match your bank or other institution the email claims to be from. 

How to respond to a spoofing call or message

The best way to respond to these messages is to not respond to them. Specifically: 

Calls. Don’t take calls from unknown numbers. If you end up on a call you think is a spoof just hang up. Don’t hit any buttons that the message says will stop future calls; it’s just part of the scam and could make you a future target. 

Personal information. Don’t give out personal information over the phone, email, or text. That includes your Social Security number, bank account information, and any biographical details that could be used to steal your identity or access your funds. Avoid answering yes or no questions. 

Do your homework. Google the number on the caller ID. If it’s been associated with scams you should be able to see that.

Follow up. If you are unsure whether a call is a spoof, it’s OK to still end the call. Check your mail. It’s likely that your bank, creditor, or other institution first mailed you about the issue. Those mailings should have a phone number to call. You can call them back using that number. 

In a nutshell, don’t give out your personal information and don’t respond to suspicious calls, emails, and texts. 

We hope this information protects you and keeps your finances and personal information secure. 

Sources: Investopedia, Forcepoint, the FCC.