Rossville, TN (WMC) - We have preached this rule until we're blue in the face: never answer a phone call whose number you don't recognize on your caller ID.
Jo Ann Summitt knows the rule. She practices the rule. But the latest phone scam tricked her into breaking it. "The lady said she was from AT&T, and she wanted to give us a $99 rebate," said Summitt.
She said the reason she answered the call was the number showing up on her caller ID. "It was actually the AT&T number you find on your telephone bill," she said. AT&T's customer service toll free number.
The scammer was pulling a trick called spoofing: using either a machine, a phone app or a disposable cell phone to make the call look like it's coming from wherever the scammer wants. The scammer spoofed the call to make AT&T's real customer service number show up on Summitt's caller ID, baiting her into answering her phone.
Yet Summitt stood her ground when the scammer requested something in return for that $99 rebate. "She wanted my passcode for my account," she said. "They shouldn't be asking me that. If it were the real AT&T, they'd already have that information."
The real AT&T said Summitt's right. "AT&T does not make unsolicited phone calls to customers, offering a rebate in exchange for providing personal or account information," said AT&T Senior Public Relations Manager Cathy Lewandowski.
"They could have made calls on my account, charged services to my account," Summitt acknowledged.
Summitt hung up on the scam call, then reported it to the Better Business Bureau's ScamTracker. Launched in 2015, the ScamTracker is a free crowd-sourcing tool that allows consumers to report scams and alert other consumers. To date, consumers have blasted more than 78,000 scams on the ScamTracker, using one-click narratives and a map pinpointing the very scams trending in their neighborhoods. "By putting these scams on blast, you're letting everybody else know in real time, 'Hey, these guys are out there, and they're trying to take advantage of us,'" said Nancy Crawford, communications director of the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South.
You should still follow the rule of not answering calls you don't recognize on caller ID. Even if you don't fall for the scam, if you answer a spoofed call, you confirm to the technology that yours is a legitimate, working phone number. The scammer will sell your number on mass marketing lists to other scammers and telemarketers. The call volume will skyrocket.
The less you answer, the more those spoofed phishing calls will taper off and disappear. Scammers will not continue to solicit a number that does not generate a human interaction. And remember: AT&T will never initiate a phone call to offer a rebate.