Beware neighbor spoofing calls says FCC in scammer tactic advisory

The FCC has issued a letter warning the US public about "neighbor spoofing" — that is, scammers who are calling people using numbers that appear to be local. This has become a big problem, according to the FCC, which says it lobbed more than $200 million in fines last year against telemarketers found to use the neighbor spoofing tactic.

Scammers and spam calls are nothing new; consumers usually avoid answering calls that come with random or unusual area codes, particularly ones that start with an "8," as a result. Telemarketers and scammers know this and many have resorted to neighbor spoofing as a result. What is neighbor spoofing?

The FCC explains that this is a form of caller ID manipulation that makes a call appear to be coming from a local number by adding a local area code. The caller may actually be located elsewhere, including in a different country. By spoofing a local number, though, they're able to trick a greater number of people into answering, people who may then fall victim to their scams.

Though many people ignore any number they don't recognize, some will answer for an unknown local area code number, assuming it may be someone they know calling from a landline or perhaps a company calling about an appointment. Upon answering, though, the caller is often greeted with a scammer peddling a random item or claiming to be someone they're not.

The FCC has received a large number of reports about neighbor spoofing calls, the agency explains. As a result, the FCC has taken enforcement actions, such as the hefty fines mentioned above, against these spoofers.

The agency is going a step further, though, with work in the pipeline to change policies in order to "help unmask and to block scam callers," the FCC said. New rules will eventually let phone companies block these calls that have high odds of being fraudulent, and the agency is also looking into tech that can verify whether any given call is actually coming from the area code it presents.