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Criminals using spoofed telephone numbers get brazen

Editorial Staff

It's remarkably easy to spoof telephone numbers i.e. to make any number one chooses to show up in the caller ID of the recipient's phone. So if a criminal is going to do that, why not choose someone special?

The FBI Los Angeles Division is warning the public about a phone scam that spoofs, or fraudulently displays, the FBI’s real telephone number on the victim’s caller ID. The fraudster impersonates a government official and uses intimidation tactics to demand payment of money purportedly owed to the government.

Scammers have spoofed the phone numbers of FBI offices in California, Montana, Colorado, Texas, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Kentucky.

The FBI has seen its main number (310-477-6565) spoofed in this manner, as well as the numbers of the division’s Resident Agencies; most recently, Santa Maria (805-346-2728) and West Covina (626-919-3434).

Residents across the USA have been targeted. Recent cases include a number of victims in California. The intended target may be told there is a federal warrant for their arrest, which would be dismissed by the court in exchange for immediate payment.

The caller often knows the name, background and personal mobile phone number of the intended victim.

Unsuspecting victims may also be told the following:

- That their social security number has been compromised and linked to money laundering.

- That their social security number has been used to open bank accounts and that the government would seize those accounts.

- To protect their money, funds should be transferred to accounts specifically set up by the government, which would be protected until the situation is resolved, at which point the money would then be returned.

- Failure to transfer money could lead to loss of funds and possible arrest.

- To meet a Social Security Administration Agent to verify identity; once complete, a new SSN would be issued so that a new bank account could be opened.

The FBI says that it does not call private citizens to request money or threaten arrest. There are a number of ways individuals with criminal intentions can obtain a victim’s name, phone number, or email address. The FBI reminds the public to limit the amount of personal information provided on-line, including on social media sites.

To avoid becoming the victim of a scam:

- Always be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls.

- Never give money or personal information to someone with whom you don’t have ties and did not initiate contact.

- Before signing up for a contest or email distribution list, make sure the business has a policy not to share your information or sell it to a third party.

- Scammers count on your lack of knowledge, so take the time to educate yourself about any offer you receive.

- Trust your instincts: if an unknown caller makes you uncomfortable or says things that don’t sound right, hang up.

The FBI strongly encourages anyone contacted by a caller who says they are with the FBI to verify the information with their local FBI Field Office. And yes, we see the irony in that statement.

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