Spoofing scams: Tips to avoid falling victim

Published 6:00 am Thursday, June 27, 2024

The rise of internet usage has given way to scams like spoofing and phishing, where scammers obtain personal and financial information they use to steal from unsuspecting victims. Local law enforcement officers say scams vary in style and technique, but there are steps people in Crenshaw County can take to avoid falling victim to scammers.

Spoofing is defined by the Federal  Bureau of Investigations (FBI) as a crime committed when someone disguises themselves online to convince potential victims they are speaking with a trusted source and convince them to send personal and financial information. 

For example, Pam Salter of Crenshaw County was contacted by a scammer posing as the Luverne Journal. The scammer replied to Salter’s comment on a Journal post, linking the reply to a website similar in appearance to www.luvernejournal.com, with only two characters out of place to those on the Journal’s authentic website. 

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“I had posted a picture of two of my dogs together, and that’s the picture that they sent, saying that I had won and I had to go to this certain website,” Salter said. “The website is what caught my eye. I have used Luverne Journal’s website before, and that wasn’t what I had used before.”

After receiving the spoof message, Salter reached out to a Luverne Journal employee to confirm the information, and was told that the message and fake website was a scam.

With scams similar to Salter’s case on the rise, Chief Investigator of the Crenshaw County Sheriff’s Department, Chris Stewart, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website, www.fcc.gov, provide more information about how citizens are able to prevent themselves from falling victim to these scams. 

First, avoid unknown calls, texts or website links. 

With some spoofing scams, not interacting with the scammer or their links can be the most effective way to avoid being scammed. The FCC recommends individuals not answer calls from unknown numbers, and to hang up immediately if they are answered. 

“Sometimes what happens is people will click on that link, they may not respond to it, but when you click on that link, that’s like opening the door, that’s all they want you to do.” Stewart said. “When that link opens up, it gives them access to all your information.” 

Second, do not give personal information away. 

Legitimate companies and government offices will not ask for your personal and financial information. The FCC recommends never giving out personal or identifying information like account numbers, social security numbers or passwords. 

Additionally, companies and government offices will not ask for money in the form of gift cards or prepaid cards. 

Third, verify the identity of persons or groups asking for information.

Many spoofing scammers mask the caller ID so the call appears to originate from a local number and appear as a trusted source. If citizens receive a call from a number stating the caller is from a company or government body, the FCC recommends calling the number listed on the entity’s website or in a phone book to verify the authenticity of the request. 

Citizens who believe they have fallen victim to a scam, or were contacted by what could potentially be a scam can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.reportfraud.ftc.gov or by calling 877-382-4357. Scamming victims are also encouraged to file a complaint with their local sheriff or police department.