Voice of the consumer: Trust your gut over Caller ID, numbers can be 'spoofed'

Published: Feb. 10, 2020 at 6:42 AM MST
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11 News lead Call For Action investigator Katie Pelton pens a weekly column for our news partner The Gazette. Previous columns can be found here.

This week I want to warn you about a new scam where the crooks make it look like they are calling from our local hospitals. I’ve heard from a couple people who have gotten calls like this already.

We’ve warned you for years about scammers "spoofing" their phone number to make the Caller ID look like they are calling from utilities, the police department and the sheriff’s office. Well, now the bad guys are trying to trick you with a new one.

The first time I heard about this is when a woman named Fran called me to tell me about a suspicious call she received. When her phone rang, the Caller ID said "UC Health."

“I got a call and it said, ‘UC Health’. I said, ‘Well that’s my doctor’s office calling,’” said Fran. “He said something and I said, ‘I’m sorry I don’t understand you.’ He said, ‘it’s about debt.’”

A man with a heavy accent told her she owed debt and needed to pay up right away. She doesn’t owe any money, so she hung up the phone. The guy tried calling her back several times. Fran wanted to make sure her real doctor’s office wasn’t trying to get a hold of her, so she called UC Health using a trusted phone number. They confirmed that they were not trying to get a hold of her and that she does not have an outstanding balance on her account.

“I’ve heard of (scams) from the newspaper and from your show where it will come up as the El Paso County Sheriff’s or the Social Security office,” said Fran. “They were using that number so people would answer the phone … it got somebody to answer the phone, that’s for sure.”

UC Health told me this is the first they have heard about scammers spoofing their phone number. If you get a call that seems suspicious, hang up the phone and call UC Health using a trusted phone number, like the one listed on your statement or on their website, to see if they are actually trying to get a hold of you.

After my story aired on KKTV 11 News, I heard from another viewer who got a scam phone call saying it was from another hospital in our area. She doesn’t want me to use her name but wanted to warn others.

“I received a phone call and on my phone it popped up and said ‘Penrose Hospital,’” the woman told me. “I thought maybe I should answer it, in case it’s an emergency.”

The woman answered the phone and heard three beeps on the other end before a man with a heavy accent picked up the other line.

“A man with a foreign accent started speaking to me and I immediately said, ‘Hey, I know you’re a scam. Please take my number off your list.’ Before I could get the word ‘list’ out, he hung up on me,” she said.

“It’s very scary for the people who have someone in the hospital or someone that’s sick,” she added. “They’re preying on people’s fears, which is really terrible.”

Penrose-St. Francis Health Services told me that they have not received other reports of their number being used in phone scams. A spokesperson said you should never share any medical information with anyone other than your doctor. If you want to confirm that someone is trying to get a hold of you, you can call the main line for Penrose-St. Francis at 719-776-5000.

I’ve warned you many times that crooks can mask their phone number to make it look like they’re calling from anywhere, so you can’t always trust your Caller ID. Instead, trust your gut and don’t ever feel like you have to react right away. Take some time to think things through and check with the company before making a payment. If you’re the victim of a scam, you can reach out to our 11 Call for Action volunteers at 719-457-8211.

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