This Terrifying Call From Your “mom” Could Be a Scam
I’ve been getting so many spam calls lately that I hardly ever pick up the phone. However, if I see a call from someone I know, be it a friend or family member, I will of course answer it (usually). Unlike a random number, I know the person on the other end of the line because I have their contact on my phone, right? Unfortunately, this is not 100% true and scammers use this to their advantage.
Take this TikTok from the creator of Citylivingsoutherngirl for example . In the video, the creator describes how her mother called her. The call went through just like any other call: her mom’s contact immediately showed up, nothing nefarious or suspicious. She answered the phone, only to hear what sounded like her mother’s voice away from the phone and sobbing. Then a male voice answered and demanded money from the girl, otherwise he would kill her mother.
Of course, the creator was horrified and eventually agreed to the demands. She persuaded the man over the phone to lower the $1,000 cash payment through the app to $100, and after one failed attempt, she finally sent the money. When she did, he immediately hung up. She called back immediately, only to hear her mother on the other end, who was extremely puzzled as to why her daughter was so upset. As you might guess, it was all a scam. What happened here?
Scammers may pretend to be calling you from a number you trust
It all comes down to the so-called “spoofing”. Spoofing is when someone manipulates the contact information that appears on your phone when they call you to trick you into thinking they are someone they are not. They don’t have physical access to your mom’s phone, but if they have her number, they can “fake” it so that her number appears on your phone when the scammers actually call you.
Fake itself is not so difficult. You do not need to be a hacker or understand smartphones and computers. Instead, you just need access to software that can handle spoofing for you. You enter the number you want to call, then the number it should appear under, and voila: you’ve been scammed.
Unfortunately for scammers, spoofing does not allow you to choose the contact name that pops up when you call. If that were the case, we would be in big trouble: scammers would be constantly calling everyone in an emergency from family members. Because of this limitation, scammers need to know not only the number they want to spoof, but also the connection with you. The scammers who called Citylivingsoutherngirl must have known that the fake number belonged to the creator’s mother, so they could effectively pull off their scam.
Of course, not all scammers use spoofing to trick victims into handing over money. The latest trend is to name targets and claim that you have kidnapped their children , while using fake children’s voices in the background. In this case, the scammers can assume the identity of the kidnapper, and they do not need the victim to think that he is calling from someone else’s phone. However, they could, which would make the scam much more believable. If a parent receives a call from a child’s phone and hears a voice claiming to have kidnapped their child, they will understandably panic.
Spoofing is hard to deal with
Unfortunately, there is little you can do to make sure that spoofing is prevented. You can practice good cybersecurity strategies, such as keeping personal information away from the Internet, to reduce your risk of falling victim to such scams. But if someone fakes a contact’s number and calls from it to your phone, that call will be accepted and appear as that contact.
If one day you pick up the phone and think someone is offline, your best bet is to hang up and then call the contact person back. If it was a spoofing situation, you won’t call the scammers back, just a legitimate number, in which case you’ll hear a confused contact on the other end wondering why you think they called you. If so, you can file a report with the FCC to try and catch the scammers (but don’t hold your breath).