Spoofing scams: Tips to avoid falling victim

Published 6:00 am Thursday, July 4, 2024

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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 Butler County can take to avoid falling victim to scammers.

“We just want people to be vigilant in their business and keep a check on it,” said Danny Bond, the Sheriff of Butler County. “Hopefully they will send nobody no money and everything will be good, it takes all you can do to make a living these days.”

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. 

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With spoofing scams, Bond 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. 

“We have a lot of scams going on, where people who will call and say, ‘Hey, you won Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes, but you’re gonna need to go to Walmart and put $500 on a green card and send that, and then we bring your money,’ Bond said. “If you have to spend money to get money on sweepstakes like that, then that would be a red flag immediately. If you win, you win. If you don’t, you don’t. You don’t have to send money in to win that money.”

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 had one [case] where people were posing as deputies here, and if [victims] didn’t send money, they were going to arrest them,” Bond said. “We’re not gonna call you on the phone and tell you to send money, that’s not gonna happen. I tell everybody to give [the scammer] my number, and tell him to call me. If it’s a legitimate thing, they’ll call me, and I’ve had nobody call yet.”

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.