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Congressman Adrian Smith

Representing the 3rd District of Nebraska

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Stopping Fraudulent Phone Calls

November 2, 2018
Column

We’ve all been there. Our families sit down for a nice, relaxing dinner and just as we begin to eat, the phone rings. But who could it be? It’s fairly late in the evening and mostly anyone who would call at such an hour is already gathered together.

Not wanting to miss an important call from a friend in need, we take the bait and answer the phone. Immediately, we find ourselves in the middle of a sales pitch for the latest and greatest home security system or a mortgage refinancing product which promises to have us debt free in a matter of months.

It’s obviously a recording, but what to do now? Do we wait for it to end, at which point we can select an option indicating we wish to be removed from their calling list, which rarely works, or simply hang up only to be called back shortly thereafter? In my case, I sometimes receive as many as five unwanted calls in a day, despite having registered my number with the Do Not Call Registry (1-888-382-1222.)

These calls are illegal. In some cases, they’ve gone as far as to imitate the Social Security Administration in an attempt to steal retirement benefits which prompted its inspector general to issue a public warning to would-be victims. According to the report, criminals are using “spoofing” technology to make the Social Security Administration’s 1-800 number display on caller IDs when they call. If you or your loved ones happen to receive one of these fraudulent calls, please note the following.

The Social Security Administration will never threaten your benefits. Callers have reportedly offered to increase benefits or push through approvals if their victims would only provide personal information such as Social Security Numbers and bank account information. If you receive a suspicious call, you may report it to the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-269-0271.

If you’re concerned a genuine problem exists after receiving a call requesting your personal information, hang up and call the government agency, bank, or credit card company in question directly at their public number. This puts you in control by ensuring you’re on the phone with the right people.

In 2010, I supported a bill which was signed into law to make call spoofing illegal and empower U.S. law enforcement and consumer protection authorities to put an end to them. To further strengthen these laws, I voted last year with the vast majority of my House colleagues to ensure this prohibition extends to spoofed calls coming from international locations.

Unfortunately, stopping these criminals is challenging. The technology they employ is constantly evolving and requires new approaches by law enforcement officials. As we continue to grapple with this problem, I remain committed to considering new and innovative measures aimed at bringing an end to fraudulent and unwanted calls.