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Getting scam calls from numbers very similar to your own? It's called neighbour spoofing

Scam calls have become more common since the pandemic started.

Image: Shutterstock/Mr.Whiskey

SCAMMERS ARE CLONING Irish phone numbers in a bid to make the calls seem more trustworthy, experts have warned.

In many cases, the numbers used by scammers are very similar to the number of the person who is being targeted. 

For example, there have been multiple reports of people receiving calls from numbers which share the first six numbers of their own number. 

In most cases, the receiver of the call answers to silence on the other end of the line.

It is hoped, by those organising the scams, that the target will then call the number back as it seems like a legitimate number. However, often, the number you call back is on a ‘premium service’ and you could be racking up considerable bills by calling it back. 

The display of a normal-looking number is called number spoofing – a trick used by conmen for the last decade.

Displaying a number very similar to your own is called neighbour spoofing. The reason scammers do this is that people are more likely to answer a number similar to their own as it is familiar, according to telecommunications experts.

Vodafone Ireland has also said it is aware of the scam.

Recent polling by Red C on behalf of The Journal showed that half of the people surveyed received a scam call in the previous week from 083/085/086/087/089 numbers. 

The results were largely similar across age categories, with 42% of people aged 55 and over receiving such calls compared to 54% of people aged 35-54.

However, when it came to the previous month, 73% of people polled said they received a call like this. This figure stayed consistent across age cohorts.

Number spoofing is difficult to police against. However, the advice from experts, including gardaí, is to never ring the number back. 

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The official Garda advice is:

  • Do not engage with the caller.
  • Do not return the call.
  • Do not follow the automated instructions – Do not press 1 etc.
  • Never transfer money.
  • Never disclose personal or financial information.
  • Hang up and block the number if possible.

“Whilst the scammers may change their stories and methods, their goal is always the same,” according to a statement from the Garda Press Office, “they want to access your sensitive information and get their hands on your money.”

The Journal contacted some of the major networks in Ireland in relation to neighbour spoofing.

A spokesman for Vodafone said the firm was aware of the practice and urged customers to be vigilant with their personal information. 

A spokeswoman for Eir said the company had no information on this particular scam “but scam calls are on the increase globally and they are continuously evolving to become more sophisticated, we advise our customers to practice caution and remain vigilant”.

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