Crime

So your Spidey sense tells you it’s a phone scam — should you hang up or lead ‘em on?

‘Please do not buy into these scam calls, simply hang up’

A computer-synthesized voice claiming to be an FBI agent with a warrant for your arrest is just one of the telephone scams police have warned about recently.
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A computer-synthesized voice claiming to be an FBI agent with a warrant for your arrest is just one of the telephone scams police have warned about recently.

IRS scams, FBI scams, jury duty scams, warrant scams, college admissions scams, investment scams, bank phishing scams, dating app scams, email scams — every week social media and news feeds seem to be filled with reports of the newest and latest tricks criminals use to get at your hard-earned money or use your personal information for their gain.

Some of us are good at sniffing out a scam, some of us are gullible, and we all have known or have heard of someone who has fallen victim. Truth is we’re all targets.

So what do you do when you are actually targeted? When you have someone on the other end of the line trying to wrestle your money or information out of your clutches and, thankfully, you’re fortunate enough to realize it?

Is it better to just hang up right away? Or should you string the scammer along in the hopes that you reverse the scam — getting information out of them that will help police show up at their door and put them in place where the only calls they’ll be making are of the collect variety?

“I get that (question) all the time, as well,” Bellingham Police Lt. Claudia Murphy told The Bellingham Herald. “Given the constant changes in how scams are perpetrated and the use of recording devices while the scammers are speaking to the victims, I suggest hanging up and then reporting the scammer and type of scam to the FCC (Federall Communication Commission).”

The reason, Murphy said, is even when you’re on to them, fraudsters are usually still a step ahead of you.

“When the victims continue to speak to the scammers, invariably they give away information to the scammer which they can use, including recorded words which can be then used against the victim,” Murphy told the Herald. “Many scammers try to ask questions, just to get the victim to answer “yes” so it can be recorded for future use.”

Avoiding spoof calls

Scammers often try to disguise their identities by spoofing the information that appears in your call identification display and trick you into answering. They use local area codes, numbers that may look familiar of even impersonate a legitimate business, utility or government agency. The FCC offers these tips to avoid being spoofed:

Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t know.

If you answer and get someone unexpected, hang up immediately.

Don’t hit a button to stop getting calls, hang up instead.

Don’t assume an unexpected call, even if it appears it’s from a business you know, is legitimate. Hang up and call back a number you can verify from a bill or official website to confirm.

Always be suspicious, as scammers can be very convincing by asking what seem to be innocent questions, offering things too good to be true or making threats.

Never give out personal information, such as account numbers, social security number or passwords, or answer security questions.

If you are being pressured for immediate payment, use extreme caution.

Look into call blocking apps for cell phones and ask about how to block calls on landlines.

Report any spoof scams to local law enforcement, the FCC and Federal Trade Commission.

More information: fcc.gov/spoofing.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.
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