What should you do if you get a call from the owner of a fake phone number? How do you handle this?
Receiving calls and text messages from fake phone numbers can be annoying, but also dangerous. Many are associated with scams, fraud, and harassment, and you need to make sure you have ways to protect yourself from these issues.
There are lots of issues associated with fake phone numbers. Nuisance calls, scammers, fraudsters, and con artists will make use of things like caller ID spoofing and other tricks to make you think they are calling from companies you know and trust – which increases the chances of you accidentally giving them information that you shouldn’t.
We’re going to use this article to find out more about how to trace a fake phone number, and what you should do if you suspect you are being called by a scammer.
Understanding Caller ID Spoofing
When you get a call, your phone almost certainly displays either the name of the caller or the number they are calling from – the caller ID. This is so you know who you’ll be talking to, and it helps individuals recognize each other, take calls, or avoid calls that they don’t want to answer. The caller ID is unquestionably a really useful feature of the modern phone, but it can be abused.
Caller ID spoofing is where a scammer makes your phone show a different caller number than the one that they are truly calling from. This helps scammers to hide their identities. It can also be used to win people’s trust because they think that the phone number has been verified, and belongs to a legitimate company.
Scammers can make their number look like a number belonging to – for example – the IRS, tech support from certain companies, or other trusted individuals who may be calling you. This causes issues because it encourages the person receiving the call to drop their guard, and may result in them giving out personal information or even financial details.
Tech support scams can also lead to people downloading harmful software onto their computers, which can result in identity theft and other major problems.
Methods For Tracing A Fake Phone Number
Online Reverse Lookup Services
One of the top methods for tracing a fake phone number involves using an online reverse lookup service. This sort of service will allow you to enter the phone number, and will then search the internet for information about the person who owns the number.
There are quite a few such services, including CocoLookup, SpyIon, and Whitepages. These may work as a starting point for finding out more and determining whether the person you are speaking to is legitimate.
Another option involves trying Number Tracker Pro, which is one of the best phone number lookup search engines out there. Put the number into the site’s search, and it will comb through billions of public records to try to match that phone number with other information.
However, it’s important to bear in mind that such services are also somewhat unreliable, and you will not necessarily get the right information from them. This is especially true if the number has been spoofed (making it appear as a different number), or if the individual is using a burner phone. Be cautious of the information you get from such services.
Social Media And Search Engines
Another option involves checking social media and search engines. Start by entering the number into Google (or an equivalent search engine) to see if other people have reported it as belonging to a scammer. Make sure you type in the exact number to maximize the accuracy of the results.
You may want to try it in a few different forms. You can put the area code in brackets, add dashes or spaces, or simply type in the numbers as they appear, with no dashes, brackets, etc. Trying a few different formats gives you the best chance of getting accurate information about the number. You may find news articles, scam alerts, or forums warning you about the number.
Searching for the number on platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook may also help you to trace the phone’s owner in some circumstances.
Phone Carrier Services
If you are getting a lot of scam calls, you might want to find out what services your phone carrier offers to address these. AT&T provides Call Protect, which is able to identify and block fraudulent calls, and Verizon offers an equivalent service known as Call Filter.
These are an excellent way to cut down on the number of nuisance calls that you receive and can protect you from scammers. If a fraudulent call does get through, you can also contact the customer service department for your carrier and ask them to look into the number. They will take a report and may investigate.
Contact Law Enforcement
Fake phone numbers are very frequently associated with criminal activity, and if you think that’s the case, you may want to consider reporting the number to either law enforcement or the relevant regulatory agencies.
For example, you could get in touch with the Federal Communications Commission, or the Federal Trade Commission. They will look into who owns the number, what they are doing, and whether any legal action is necessary. This helps to keep other individuals safe, as well as yourself.
You can also report texts as spam in a few different ways. One option involves reporting it via your messaging app on your phone (which should have a “report” option). Another involves forwarding the message to 7726 (SPAM), which will investigate it. You can also report it to the Federal Trade Commission.
Don’t feel that a text is unimportant; this sort of thing is dangerous, and the authorities can only tackle it if people take the time to report it.
Tips For Protecting Yourself From Fake Phone Numbers
As well as preventing calls, you should take steps to protect yourself as much as possible. This is key to minimizing your risks, so let’s figure out what you can do.
Avoid Giving Out Personal And Financial Information Over The Phone
It’s a good idea to avoid giving any personal details over the phone when you receive an unexpected call, even if you believe the caller is legitimate.
You can offer to call them back on their official number (which you should research, rather than using redial or a number they give you). When you get through to the company on the official number, you can then talk through any personal details that they wish to take.
Don’t give financial information over the phone unless you have fully verified the caller’s identity beforehand.
Verify Who You Are Speaking To
You should always know who you are talking to on the phone. Find out both the company name and the name of the individual you are speaking to, and make a note of these. You can then call the company back (again, use a number you have looked up independently) and use that information to verify the earlier call.
Having the person’s name is key because you can ask the company to check whether they have a staff member with that name, which further helps to verify that the call was legitimate. If they say that they haven’t called or that nobody of that name works at the company, you’ll know it was fraudulent, and you can report it as described above.
Use Call-Blocking Features Or Download Apps
Your phone likely has a feature that will allow you to block calls from certain numbers – many phones do. Make use of this to ensure that you are not being unnecessarily hassled by scammers. You can cut down on nuisance calls significantly if you take the time to block any repeat callers.
If your phone’s own call-blocking features don’t work well, you might want to try downloading some apps specifically for blocking calls, such as Hiya Spam Blocker, Nomorobo, Call Control, and more.
There are also apps that will allow you to block unwanted text messages, which can cut down on distractions and spam. In both cases, you should do some careful checking into the app’s reviews and reputation before installing anything new on your phone. You want to make sure it does the job well.
Always Report Suspicious Calls
Remember that federal agencies cannot take action against fake phone numbers if people don’t report them, so take the time to do this. The Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission are both good options for letting the authorities know about nuisance phone calls.
If you feel threatened by anything you have received, consider talking to your local authorities too.
Fake phone numbers are a really big problem, especially if you are somebody who tends to trust your caller ID, and who doesn’t automatically treat unexpected calls as suspicious. It’s critically important that you protect yourself, and take steps to both prevent and deal with fake phone numbers.
Be vigilant, and always ask yourself how you can tell that the person on the other end of the line is who they are claiming to be. Don’t take it for granted that they are just because of the number that appears on your phone. Sign out for a free account of the reverse phone lookup service here.