COLORADO SPRINGS — We have continuing coverage as part of National Consumer Protection Week. Monday we looked at a record number of consumer complaints in Colorado, now News5 takes a deep dive into a specific fraud tactic we're seeing in our communities every day.
Do you ever get calls that appear to be from a trusted number or source, but when you answer the caller is someone completely different? You're not crazy. These are known as spoof calls and they've become a cornerstone for fraudsters.
Investigators say for the crooks the goal of these spoof calls is to increase the odds of you engaging with them. They want you to answer their call that you'd normally ignore.
In Colorado Springs, Susan says her caller ID has lit up for medical providers, Fort Carson, and even the Air Force Academy, but when she answers she often identifies a scam.
"It came in as UCHealth and I was expecting a call for the COVID vaccine because I'm signed up as a registered patient there," said Susan. "Somebody is spoofing those numbers and then trying to sell you solar panels for your roof, or get you to give information, personal information, but it takes an investment up front and the whole nine yards it just continues on like that. When you tell them you're not interested they say well your neighbor did this or so-and-so did that. I just hang up on them and tell them they are breaking the law by spoofing these numbers and they laugh at you."
If you still aren't convinced spoof calls are a problem look at some of these numbers. Experts say 58 to 60 million of these calls go out to people in the United States every year. That breaks down to roughly 113 calls per person.
Investigators say the scam callers are going off of marketing research that says if you see a number on caller ID that you recognize, or identify it as a local number you're 60 percent more likely to answer that call.
"How this spoof technology works is it's either an app, or a software program and what the scammers will do is they will find a legitimate number that then shows up on your caller ID. So this number they could pull it off of a website," CSU Global's "Dr. Fraud" J. Michael Skiba told News5. "Now the key is not to engage in any manner. If you do answer the call don't click on anything. What that does is it tells that computer that you are a human and that actually opens up the flood gates to probably two or three times more calls and more emails etc."
News5 learned some of these calls are tricky and the recording will say something like "press 2 if you'd like to be put on our do not call list" but in reality by pressing a button the scammers now know you'll interact with their calls. So, you'll actually be more likely to hear from them on a regular basis.
Again, the best advice is to hang up when you notice something isn't right.
So you may be asking yourself, if we know so much about these crimes why is it so hard to stop them?
Fraud experts say law enforcement agencies struggle with jurisdiction. For example, if the caller is in California, the target is in Colorado and the company operating the software is in New York, which agency should take that case?
Experts say the best response for all of us is to report these calls when you can. The more reports, the more likely investigators will dedicate resources to going after the fraudsters placing these spoof calls.