BBB: Don't Trust Caller ID

 If you think you are being "spoofed":

  • Don't rely on Caller ID. Scammers have been known to take on the identities of friends, neighbors, law enforcement or even take your own number
  • Trust your instincts. If something doesn't feel right, don't give that information
  • Hang up and verify. Don't give financial information over the phone unless you place the call
  • File a complaint with the FCC. 1-888-CALL-FCC or


Napoleon, Mich. For two weeks, people in Napoleon received phone calls from Linda Partin's number.

Except the voice on the other end wasn't Linda Partin.

Instead, it was an automated message with a female voice, asking whoever picked up to press "one" for information on their credit score.

Heather Sanepole picked up at first, thinking it was a call from a neighbor -- after all, the number was only one digit different from hers. But after weeks of three or four calls a day, she finally hit her breaking point.

She dialed the number that called her and was astonished to find Partin's voice on the other end.

"She wasn't happy with me," said Partin. "She wanted me to stop calling her. She was tired of it.

"I said, 'I don't know what you're talking about.'"

Partin is the just the latest victim of a scam that the Better Business Bureau says has been around for years. Called "spoofing," scammers pose as someone else. The number shows up on the caller ID.

Scammers may assume the identity of a neighbor, a police department or even the BBB itself.

"All they're trying to do is use familiar phone numbers to get people to answer the phone," said Lisa Dilg, director of community relations for the BBB's Eastern Michigan and Upper Peninsula division. "People see the Better Business Bureau, they tend to trust that what we're saying is real."

But callers who hear messages that the BBB is giving out sweepstakes winnings are being deceived. Sometimes you may even have a scammer calling you from your own number.

"The biggest thing we tell people is trust your instincts," said Dilg. "If something doesn't feel right, don't ever give that information. Hang up and verify the information."

Dilg says it's best not to give financial information over the phone unless you have called that person -- rather than the other way around.

And don't press any buttons, Dilg says, even if the message is offering to take you off the calling list.

"Don't do anything to let them know you're out there because if you do that, you press one, they're going to call you back," she said. "You're going to get more of those phone calls."

When Linda Partin finally did find out she was being spoofed, she filed a complaint with the FCC, which a spokesman says is the best thing to do.

Spokesman Mike Snyder says the FCC can't do something immediately, but a complaint helps start the pursuit of a hacker.

There's no way to stop spoofers at this point, Snyder said, so the best you can do is just be aware of the scams. is happy to provide a forum for commenting and discussion. Please respect and abide by the house rules:

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