News & Trends

If You See This on Your Cell Phone, Be Afraid – Be Very Afraid

Imagine this—your phone rings, and the caller ID tells you it's you calling yourself—yes, a call on your mobile phone from your own number. Don't be fooled. It's almost certainly an old "spoofing" scam that's making the rounds again.

In some scenarios upon answering, a recording suggests your computer is infected with a virus or pretends to be a friend or loved one needing money for an emergency. In other cases, the robocall explains that your AT&T wireless account has been comprised. To fix it, you need to enter your Social Security number. AT&T has not responded to our request for comment.

Don't do it.

"Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake or ‘spoof' caller ID information, writes Bikram Bandy of the Federal Trade Commision. "They can make it look like they're calling from a different place or phone number. Even your number. Scammers use this trick as a way to get around call-blocking and hide from law enforcement. They hope you'll be curious enough to pick up. Don't fall for it."

Some scammers have the ability to place fraudulent charges on your phone bill when you answer, Phyllisha Landix of the Better Business Bureau, told ABC affiliate WFAA last month. "The longer time you spend on that phone, the greater chances they can get something done and insert fraudulent charges."

Never, ever volunteer personal information—like credit card or Social Security numbers, over the phone. If you do get a request for personal information from someone claiming to represent a company or government agency, the FTC advises hanging up immediately and calling the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book or from the company's or government agency's web site. (See also: What Can Identity Thieves Do with Your Personal Information and How Can You Protect Yourself?)

Report such calls to the Federal Trade Commision and consider adding yourself to the National Do Not Call Registry. You can also check with your phone company to find out if they offer features that block unwanted calls.