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The Latest Scam: Hijacking Your Phone Number

Scammers use technology to hide from telephone screeners

Scammers try to stay one step ahead of consumers. When consumers started using Caller ID to screen calls, scammers adopted a practice known as "ID Spoofing.”

Naturally, the Internet has made all of this easier. Websites such as www.spoofcard.com will, in exchange for fee, allow a customer to input a fake name and number to display on a recipient's caller ID. Scammers can use this serviceto disguise their numbers as those of trusted government agencies, banks or even private residences to convince their targets to make a payment or provide personal information.

The practice is similar to e-mail spoofing, in which a sender can make it appear his message was sent from another e-mail address.

Some caller ID spoofing services even offer to disguise callers' voices. For instance, a man could speak in his normal voice and computer software would make it sound like a woman's voice.

In a recent complaint filed with the Ohio Attorney General's Office, an Ohio woman reported that a scammer even hijacked her residential phone number. The woman received a string of calls from people the scammer had called — and presumably tried to con — using her number.

You might think these practices are illegal, but they aren't. Earlier this year the House of Representatives approved a measure that would outlaw phone number spoofing but the Senate has yet to act

Meanwhile, Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray cautions that you should be wary of any unexpected callers — or e-mailers — who ask for your personal information. Remember, even if their number appears to be from a legitimate organization, it could be spoof.

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