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Massena police chief warns about ‘spoofing’ calls

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MASSENA - The Caller ID may indicate an incoming call with the Sullivan’s Office Supply name and telephone number, but that doesn’t mean it’s Sullivan’s Office Supply on the other end.

Owner Thomas Sullivan said he was notified by someone who had received one of the calls this week. She told Mr. Sullivan the caller on the other end had tried to sell her something.

“It’s not us. Somebody is using our name and one of our phone numbers,” Mr. Sullivan said.

Police Chief Timmy J. Currier said he had been notified by Mr. Sullivan about the call, but it has not been a recurring problem.

“We have not to my knowledge received complaints,” he said.

However, Mr. Currier said, residents should be aware that just because a Call ID indicates a certain name and number, that may not necessarily be the same person or business on the other end of the line.

“Citizens should be very careful and cautious when they receive phone solicitations over the phone. If someone receives phone solicitations, they should always check the validity of the caller. Never give our personal information or banking information over the phone unless you know the person you are talking with is legitimate,” he said.

“There are ways to confirm the validity of the caller. Ask for a call back number and check that number against the one listed on account statements, the company website or the phone book. Most reputable companies do not make ‘cold sale calls,’ so anytime you receive such a call, it should raise your level of concern,” Mr. Currier said.

Although phone fraud isn’t a new issue, he said “spoofing,” such as was the case with Sullivan’s Office Supply, has become more frequent in recent years.

“In this fraud, someone calls you using a false name and phone number for the Caller ID screen and the scammer describes an urgent scenario, such as the cancellation of an account or reports a chance to save a great deal of money on a special sale or price break. The caller may say you can avoid the cancellation if you provide your bank account or credit card number to pay the company, Mr. Currier said.

That’s when residents need to be wary, he said.

“If you give the sensitive information, he can use it to steal your identity or use your bank accounts,” Mr. Currier said.

According to the Federal Communication Commission’s website, Caller ID service is susceptible to fraud. Using the practice known as “Caller ID spoofing,” callers can deliberately falsify the telephone number and/or name relayed as the Caller ID information to disguise the identity of the calling party.

For example, it says, identity thieves who want to collect sensitive information such as bank account or other financial account numbers, Social Security number, date of birth or the mother’s maiden name, sometimes use Caller ID spoofing to make it appear as though they are calling from the person’s bank, credit card company or even a government agency.

The Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009, which was signed into law on Dec. 22, 2010, prohibits Caller ID spoofing to defraud or otherwise cause harm.

FCC rules prohibit any person or entity from transmitting misleading or inaccurate Caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm or wrongfully obtain anything of value. Violators can face penalties of up to $10,000 for each violation of the rules.

Like Chief Currier, FCC officials suggest not giving out personal information in response to an incoming caller who attempts to get account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden names, passwords and other identifying information.

They suggest that anyone who gets a call hang up and call the phone number on their account statement, in the phone book or on the company’s or government agency’s website to find out if the entity that supposedly called actually needs the requested information.

Callers who have experienced Caller ID spoofing can also contact the FCC at 1-888-CALL-FCC or file a complaint at www.fcc.gov/complaints.

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