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Phone Scams Work When You’re Most Vulnerable

My schedule had been overbooked and I knew that there wasn’t a moment to waste in the day. Imagine my surprise when our power company called and stated that our schedule for disconnect had been received. “Great”, I thought to myself, “my wife is gonna kill me if she gets home to no power”.

“Why is the power being turned off”, I asked. But they were not sure if it was due to a late payment or if the order had been accidentally applied to our account. They could only verify my address for the disconnect, anything else would require me to call customer service and they provided the number for me to call.

Now here is where the story takes an interesting turn. I have in Florida for quite a long time, and through some nasty storms that have knocked out the power and therefore have the power company on speed dial. A quick call revealed that our payment had been received on time and that there was no order for disconnect. The representative informed us that this was a scam and that the goal of the scammers is to have the victim call the number they provide which would direct callers to a fake power company call center. Fortunately, I hung up on the person who offered me no information and called the correct number.

My threat detectors were low because:

  1. The phone said it was my Power Company,
  2. They asked my no questions, rather simply provided correct information,
  3. They caught me at a perfect time when I was between two very important tasks and I was distracted.

I would like to think that had I dialed the number that they were trying to get me to call that I would have detected that this was a scam as I have a pretty good record to date of not falling for the many scams I have encountered over the years. But the fear of an angry wife sitting at home in the dark certainly threw me off my game!

I am not a fan of regulation, but that stance is starting to change. Scam and nuisance calls have doubled in the last year and now account for almost 31 percent of all calls. That number was 14% in 2017 and is predicted to be over 42% in 2019.

Many of us know how to quickly detect these calls die to the similarity to our own phone number. Neighborhood Spoofing is the term given to the scam wherein a scammer disguises their phone number to make it appear to be from a local number on your caller ID. My favorite story is from a friend who angrily called back one of these numbers only to have a woman on the other end of the phone caught off-guard by his anger as she had not made the call. (For the record, I have had a couple of people call me asking to be taken off our call list, and I had to inform them that my number was spoofed).

Scammers used to use landlines, which made it easy to detect but their new usage of technology and spoofing phone numbers. This type of scam only accounted for 16% of calls in 2017 and skyrocketed to 68% in 2018. The scam must be working well as mobile originated scams are projected to climb to 80% of total scam calls in 2019.

Great strides have been made minimize the scams being perpetrated by way of email, so the criminals are turning to old fashion telemarketing to find their victims. Mobile carriers such as AT&T and Version need to step up to the plate and adopt in-house solutions before the problem is so bad that we the people bug the FTC until they impose regulations. Until that time, it is up to us stay on our toes, no matter how scary the threat of angry wife sitting at home in the dark.


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Disclaimer: The above information is not intended as technical advice. Additional facts or future developments may affect subjects contained herein. Seek the advice of an IT Professional before acting or relying on any information in this communiqué.