In honor of Military Consumer Month, the FCC is helping raise awareness of imposter scams in which bad actors use robocall and caller ID spoofing to target U.S. servicemen and women and their families.
A recent article by the Better Business Bureau pointed out that guaranteed, steady income makes military members and their families attractive targets. Military life often entails deployments and relocation orders, requiring more-frequent sharing of personal data as new accounts are opened with each move. This activity increases risk of data breaches that can leave service members more susceptible to being scammed.
Recently, scam callers posed as representatives of TRICARE, a healthcare program for military personnel, Military.com reported. The scammers were seeking personal information, which could be used in imposter scams to rip off grandparents or other military family members.
Military.com reported also that the 84-year-old grandmother of a service member received a phone call from a man who claimed that her grandson was “on his way home on leave from Iraq for the holidays, but had gotten hung up and lost his wallet and military identification card.” The grandmother was suspicious and wisely avoided the scam and potentially costly consequences.
The FCC is working on solutions to help put a stop to these types of phone scams, which often use spoofing techniques to try to trick consumers into answering their calls by changing their caller ID to a number consumers may be more likely to answer. In meantime, we recommend following these tips:
- Don't answer calls from unknown numbers. If you answer such a call, hang up immediately.
- If you answer the phone and the caller - or a recording - asks you to hit a button to stop getting the calls, you should just hang up. Scammers often use this trick to identify potential targets.
- Do not respond to any questions, especially those that can be answered with a "Yes." Scammers can record your answers and use them for voice authorization in fraudulent activities.
- Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother's maiden names, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls, or if you are at all suspicious.
- If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency, hang up. You can call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book, or on the company's or government agency's website to verify the authenticity of such a call. Also, you will usually get a written statement in the mail before you get a phone call from a legitimate source, particularly if the caller is asking for a payment.
- Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately.
- Always be on guard for any suspicious activity and report it to local law enforcement.
File a complaint with the FCC
At the FCC, we often hear first-hand about phone scams through complaints consumers file with us. You can file complaints with the FCC about unwanted calls and spoofing, along with telecom billing, service issues and other matters the FCC oversees. Information about the FCC's informal complaint process, including how to file a complaint, and what happens after a complaint is filed, is available in the FCC Complaint Center FAQ.