Using local numbers is a new way phone scammers are hoping to get callers to answer. But, how do these automated calls get local numbers? Often, they are spoofed from businesses or individuals.
Chumbley’s Auto Care, located in Indianola, Iowa, recently fell victim to having its number spoofed.
“Around 10 a.m. we started getting an increased volume of calls….The calls were coming in by very confused people saying ‘I’m returning your call, but I don’t know why you called me,’” shares Tim Davison, owner of Chumbley’s Auto Care.
It didn’t take long for Davison and his staff to realize something wasn’t quite right. After speaking with a few callers, the shop discovered its number was being used for two different scams: one to sell extended warranties for vehicles; and the other to reduce student loan debt.
Upon discovering his number had been spoofed, Davison reached out to local police who said they couldn’t help.
Davison then reached out to his phone provider. The company shared that phone numbers can get compromised, and the only thing they can do is to terminate the phone number. Since Chumbley’s has been in business at the same number for 30-plus years, getting rid of the phone number wasn’t an option.
So, with four phones ringing off the hook, the shop decided to tie up two phones by having one call the other. Then, two people staffed the remaining phones.
“The phone would ring so much that it was just a constant ringing. It was like Chinese water torture, that gets to you after 15 to 20 minutes,” Davison says.
Worried that his number would end up on some sort of solicitor list that could negatively impact his business, Davison decided to make the best out of a bad situation and contacted the local news station.
The television broadcast helped by letting people know what was going on and also helped cut back on some of the calls to the shop, Davison says.
During the course of a few days Chumbley’s received thousands of telephone calls.
“People were very understanding, once we explained what was going on. They were like, ‘We get these calls all the time,’” Davison explains.
What Can Businesses Do?
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is aware of the new trend of phone spoofing, but doesn’t have ways to protect businesses and individuals from its occurrence.
“This is a tough situation for which there are, unfortunately, no easy solutions at this time. We suggest such businesses file a complaint with us and reach out to their phone company, in case they have any tools,” a spokesperson for the FCC told Shop Owner. “Long term, the FCC is working with the industry to improve call authentication so that consumers will better know if a call is likely spoofed, or if it is legitimate. This could help address this problem, but it will take some time to be implemented.”
The FCC also advises anyone whose number has been spoofed to not answer unknown numbers, and leave a message explaining that your telephone number was spoofed and you made no actual calls. If answering unknown numbers is unavoidable, explain to the caller that your number has been spoofed and you did not, in fact, call them.
Filing a Complaint with the FCC
There are multiple ways a business can file a complaint with the FCC:
• Online at consumercomplaints.fcc.gov
• By phone: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322); TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322); ASL: 1-844-432-2275
• By mail (please include your name, address, contact information and as much detail about your complaint as possible): Federal Communications Commission Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division, 445 12th Street, S.W. Washington, DC 20554