Call spoofing from Miami numbers: Don't be duped

by Elizabeth Jenike, IT Services

IT Services has received reports that people are getting phone calls from spurious Miami numbers.

One staff member reported that she picked up the phone, thinking that since it was coming from an internal number it was a legitimate call - only to find that it was a scam call about taking a resort vacation. When this staff member hung up and called the number back, it came up as a non-working Miami number.

“Call spoofing” is a phenomenon utilized by scammers to make it look like the call is coming from a number you potentially trust. The Federal Communications Commission defines it as when a caller “deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity.” It’s the cousin of email spoofing, which we’ve written about in the past.

The FCC also lists several things to do if you suspect that you are ‘being spoofed.’ Among those is the absolute certainty: Do not give private information (e.g., Social Security numbers, bank account information, or common security question answers) out over the phone. Here are a few others:

  • Be wary of any person asking you to provide information immediately.
  • If you receive a call from a person claiming to represent a financial or government agency, hang up and call the mentioned organization to verify. Most of the time, these organizations will not attempt to initiate contact with you over the phone.

In Miami’s case, the spoofed phone calls show up on desk phones only as 513 529-XXXX, whereas if it were coming from a legitimate Miami number, it would show the name of the person calling and the five-digit on-campus number.

IT Services network engineer Doug Wallace said that this kind of thing happens frequently, but there’s little that can be done on the prevention side. Sometimes, the networking team can take numbers that are reported as spam multiple times out of service.

A businessman looking concerned on a cell phone.

Telephone operator Naomi Cole stated that she frequently receives calls from people confused about the types of phone calls they are getting from Miami numbers. It depends on the situation, but she generally tells folks that scammers may have been able to spoof a Miami number, or that the call might actually be coming from the University - for instance, University Advancement uses numbers specifically set up for the purpose of asking for donations.

“At the very least, I do tell people that if they didn't receive a voicemail then I would wait to see if the number calls back, and if the number doesn't call back, it likely wasn't important,” she said.

Cole also noted that some people call in because they have received a message from ‘the University’ saying that they owe money to Miami - when they’ve never attended the school in the first place. In this situation, it’s a good rule of thumb to follow the FCC’s second bit of advice denoted above: If someone claiming to be from an institution asks for personal information or money over the phone, hang up and call the actual office they are claiming to be from to verify whether or not they’re telling the truth.

KB to the rescue

Usually when we talk about spam or scammers, it's in context with email phishing attempts or other electronic means of hacking into unsuspecting systems. You can read all about that and get tips on how to resolve issues with email spam in the Knowledge Base!

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