Smart About Money: Alert! You Can’t Believe What You See On Your Caller ID

It’s called phone spoofing. It’s rampant. It’s all too easy to fall for. And basically it means that to protect yourself, you cannot believe what you see on your Caller ID. Ever.

A customer came into the bank to speak with me. His mother-in-law had recently passed away and he was the executor of her estate. He told me he’d “just gotten a very odd call from Eversource.”

The “Eversource” caller claimed that his mother-in-law’s account was past due and they needed a payment immediately by credit card.

He told me he wanted to do the right thing. And – in the moment – he couldn’t imagine why the payment he’d sent to Eversource hadn’t arrived. But since the person on the other end of the line seemed to have some information about his mother-in-law and since it said “Eversource” right on his Caller ID, he gave the caller his credit card number.

It gets worse.

The “Eversource” caller said that credit card wasn’t working and did he have another card – maybe a debit card – they could try? He gave them his debit card number.

You’d think that would be pushing it enough but the “Eversource” caller went on. They told him that if the debit card didn’t work, they might need him to go to a pay station – Western Union – and wire them the money. They said they’d let him know on that and ended the call.

This man is not a confused person but this call was starting to confuse him greatly. Especially when the “Eversource” caller mentioned Western Union. That’s when he got concerned and decided to come into the bank.

You can probably see where this is going. That caller was not from Eversource. It was a phone spoofing spammer and, unfortunately, they tricked this man out of both his credit card and debit card numbers.

Luckily, he acted very quickly and alerted both the bank and his credit card company, so he was not out any money.

The Federal Trade Commission has started working on this problem and maybe someday the phone companies will find a way to make sure the number you see on your Caller ID is legitimate. Maybe they’ll block and delete all spam calls. Until then, it is imperative that you protect yourself.

> First and most important, for the time being, you cannot believe that the name or number you see on Caller ID is that person or company. Especially if it’s anyone calling with any kind of “Alarming News!” That’s a giant red flag and a sign to stop and take a breath and tell them you’ll have to call them back. Use a number you know is genuine. (See below)

> Second, the minute you realize you’re on the phone with a stranger who has mis-identified themselves, hang up. Do not feel like you have to politely end the conversation. Do not provide any further personal information.

> Third, if you hung up on call or let it go to voicemail and now you’re concerned it may actually have been from whoever it said on the Caller ID – Eversource or the IRS or Social Security – call them yourself using a genuine phone number from your monthly bill or their secure web site.

Even if you’re pretty sure someone calling you is from your bank or credit card company or any company you do business with, feel free to tell them you’ll have to call them back on a number you know is genuine. A legitimate business won’t mind. They’ll be delighted that you’re safeguarding yourself and your account.

Nick Maffeo is the President & CEO of Canton Co-operative Bank in Canton. “Smart About Money” is a regular column he writes for the Canton Citizen. Have a financial question you’d like to ask? Email to


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