Who is Calling Me? How to Tell if a Number is Real

In 2019 alone, an estimated 54.6 billion robocalls were made; that’s a 108% jump from the previous year.  In the last year alone, the FTC estimates that consumers lost nearly $1.48 billion dollars to fraud.  Berkshire Hathaway’s BusinessWire estimated that every American receives at least 14 unwanted calls from robocallers a month.  But, this number fails to include telemarketers, an industry that’s responsible for at least 30 billion calls annually. 

Voice phishing – the use of fraudulent phone calls to trick victims into divulging personal financial information – has seen a recent surge. As spammers and voice phishing scammers look to increase their sheer call output at record speed, their technology and means of accessing vulnerable targets have become more advanced as well. Today more than ever there’s a growing need for services such as Spokeo to help spot fake phone numbers. Read on to discover what you need to know to keep yourself and your personal information safe.

How Scammers Get Away With It

Before learning how to prevent fraud and voice phishing, it’s important to understand the techniques that fraudsters and telemarketers employ to increase their odds of success.  Right now, it’s fairly common for robocallers to ID-spoof.

Who's Calling Me?

Search any phone number to learn more about the owner!

Fraudsters use the ID-spoofing technique to allow them to send false origin information to a phone’s caller ID.  For instance, a robocall that is ID-spoofed and using false origin information may appear like it’s either from someone you know or a nearby area code.  In reality, ID-spoofed numbers are coming from neither. 

So…Who Is Calling Me?

Luckily, tracing a spoofed phone number is easier than you might think. There are plenty of ways to identify a fake number and thus, trace a spoofed number. 

  • Do A Quick Social Search: Most businesses — including online businesses — will keep an updated social media footprint.  Any number claiming to be from a specific business should be quickly discoverable on social media platforms like Facebook. A quick search will likely surface a real company number that you can call and verify to be real.  Numbers found on social platforms that call into Google Voice automation (an automated voicemail service hosted by Google that’s popular with scammers)  or have automated services requesting personal information should be hung up on quickly. Don’t trust companies that you can’t find online or on social media. 
  • Google It: A quick phone number search never hurts.  See if you can locate a real business or person on Google by typing in the number that just called. 
  • Try a Reverse Phone Lookup: There are a few online services that allow you to quickly look up the owner of a phone number and learn more about the person behind the number.   With unique, insightful features like Phone Reputation Score, Spokeo leads the reverse phone lookup space by leveraging over 12 billion phone records to help verify that the calls you receive come from legitimate sources. 

How Spokeo’s Phone Reputation Score Can Help

Spokeo’s upcoming feature – Phone Reputation Score – gives users even more actionable information when dealing with frustrating spam calls. The feature (available soon on both the Spokeo Mobile App and browser-based site) helps users identify these calls upfront, saving time, and protecting users against data or security breaches from scammers by generating a score for users that assigns a simple spam risk score of Low, Medium, or High to each phone number.

We calculate this score for each phone number using our unique data sources. These sources include information from phone data companies Spokeo has partnered with, which allow us to access information like phone status, area code location, and phone line type for nearly every number in the U.S.  This data can be used to indicate spam calls — for example, receiving a call from a phone number registered outside the US  is a good indicator of spam.  We also leverage Spokeo’s users and comments to generate this score. If we see a burst in unique searches happening around a particular number then it probably means this particular number has been making lots of calls in a short period of time — another good indicator of spam.  We also take users’ comments  and opinions on whether a particular phone number is spam or fraud into account. Search a number now and see how the Phone Reputation Score rates the number.

What Should I Do If I Pick Up?

If you happen to pick up a call from a robocall or voice phishing scam, remember that (while a nuisance) they can only really do harm if you give them your information while on that call.  In the event that you accidentally engage with an automated robocall, never share your vital personal information that only you would know such as your mother’s maiden name, previous residences, social security number and date of birth.  Voice phishing scams are looking to capture those recordings to commit fraud.  

If you can identify a scam at the call’s outset, quickly hang-up and go about your day. 

Spokeo is the Solution

While robocalling and voice phishing aren’t going away anytime soon, Spokeo is  staying ahead of the curve and keeping the communications world transparent.  With a tool like Spokeo’s reverse phone search and Phone Reputation Score on your side, getting increased knowledge and protection against scammers is as accessible as ever. 

To protect yourself from receiving robocalls and voice phishing attempts in the first place, you can leverage a tool like our robocall blocker (and check out our review of the top robocall blocking apps).

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