Spoofing scams: Tips to avoid falling victim

Published 6:00 am Thursday, June 27, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The rise of internet usage has given way to scams like spoofing and phishing, where scammers obtain personal and financial information they use to steal from unsuspecting victims. Local law enforcement officers say scams vary in style and technique, but there are steps people of Lowndes County can take to avoid falling victim to scammers.

“I’ve been [in law enforcement] for 15 years, and scams have always been a part of crime, whether it be through emails, phones, text messages, whatever it may be,” said Lowndes County Sheriff’s Patrol Commander Lt. Nick Cognasi. “There’s been numerous types of scams.”

Spoofing is defined by the Federal  Bureau of Investigations (FBI) as a crime committed when someone disguises themselves online to convince potential victims they are speaking with a trusted source and convince them to send personal and financial information. 

Email newsletter signup

With spoofing scams, Cognasi and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website, www.fcc.gov, share more information about how citizens are able to prevent themselves from falling victim to these scams. 

First, do not give personal information away. 

Legitimate companies and government offices will not ask for your personal and financial information. The FCC recommends never giving out personal or identifying information like account numbers, social security numbers or passwords. 

Additionally, companies and government offices will not ask for money in the form of gift cards or prepaid cards. 

“That’s normally how these are done, because most online scams are out of the country or state,” Cognasi said. “No reputable business, agency, or wherever they claim to be, is going to ask for that from someone.”

Second, avoid unknown calls, texts or website links. 

With some spoofing scams, not interacting with the scammer or their links can be the most effective way to avoid being scammed. The FCC recommends individuals not answer calls from unknown numbers, and to hang up immediately if they are answered. 

Third, verify the identity of persons or groups asking for information.

Many spoofing scammers mask the caller ID so the call appears to originate from a local number and appear as a trusted source. If citizens receive a call from a number stating the caller is from a company or government body, the FCC recommends calling the number listed on the entity’s website or in a phone book to verify the authenticity of the request. 

“We always tell people to make sure that whenever they are talking to somebody that’s representing themselves, if they have any questions, feel free to contact that agency,” Cognasi  said. “We’ve had people call us and say, ‘Hey, we’ve heard that our loved one might be in jail there, and I was calling to confirm it.’ We can obviously confirm that quickly while they’re on the phone.” 

Citizens who believe they have fallen victim to a scam, or were contacted by what could potentially be a scam can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.reportfraud.ftc.gov or by calling 877-382-4357. Scamming victims are also encouraged to file a complaint with their local sheriff or police department.