Receiving phone calls from numbers that look almost identical to your own is a common technique used by nuisance callers and scammers. So how does the scam work, and what can you do about it?
What Is Neighbor Spoofing?
This behavior is part of a wider technique known as “neighbor spoofing,” which is designed to trick people into answering the phone. Neighbor spoofing involves impersonating part or all of a number so that the target sees a partly recognizable number that they’re more likely to trust.
It’s used to impersonate companies in a bid to extract information or funds from customers, and it can also be used to impersonate individuals by spoofing their phone number in its entirety.
When it comes to calls from seemingly similar personal mobile numbers, the overall intent is the same. A scammer will attempt to impersonate your number except for a few digits in the hope that you will be more likely to answer a recognizable number. Once you answer, the scam really gets going.
There’s no telling exactly which scam the person on the other end will attempt if you answer the phone call. It could be a classic tech support scam that asserts that something is wrong with your computer, a coronavirus vaccine scam, or a social engineering attack from someone impersonating your bank.
What Can You Do About It?
There’s not a lot that you can do about this scam since it relies on spoofing rather than legitimate incoming calls. If you block the number, you won’t be blocking the scammer, you’ll just be blocking the number that they were impersonating when they called you.
The best thing that you can do if you notice an incoming call from a number that’s similar to your own is to avoid picking up the phone. Much of the time, these operations are designed to verify or collect valid numbers. When you pick up the phone, you confirm that your number is worth targeting in the future.
You can try installing call-screening software on your phone like Hiya, Nomorobo, or Truecaller. These apps work on both iPhone and Android, and they will attempt to warn you of threats while the phone is still ringing. This gives you a chance to let the call ring out without giving the scammer anything.
Since this scam involves spoofing numbers, call-screening software can only do so much. Consider contacting your carrier if you’re receiving a lot of these calls, as they might be able to trace the origin.
Tougher laws deter scammers, and the rise of call-screening apps has forced scammers to change their tactics, which in turn has led to their increased reliance on neighbor spoofing.
Other Phone Scams to Be Aware of
Phone calls aren’t the only way that scammers will try to get money or information out of you by phone.
Smishing, a portmanteau of “SMS” and “phishing,” is on the rise, so be aware of the techniques that text-message scammers use to appear legitimate. The technique is commonly used to impersonate utility providers or deceive you into thinking that you have a missed package waiting.