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Federal agents are not using a Cambridge Police phone to threaten to take away your Social Security number

Cambridge Police report that if you get a call from 617-349-3300, which is their non-emergency number and the person at the other end says he's a federal agent and you're a horrible person and he's going to suspend your Social Security number, don't believe him for a second and definitely don't give up any of your real personal digits. It's a scam.

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either the telephone number, the place, or the name of the person who's calling, because I figure that first, it's more than likely a scam, and secondly, one never knows what the person(s) at the other end of such a scam phone call may be up to. Nowadays, one can't be too careful. That's why I have caller ID. I'll also know not to answer that phone number you mentioned above. Thanks.

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Now that many people are working from home, they may block their number if they have to make work calls from a personal phone.

I have run into this with my doctor and veterinarian calling, and it makes it hard to call back after a message has been left.

If you are expecting such a call, then you might want to pick up if it is a blocked number.

What’s so hard about listening to the number they leave in the voice mail? They should know to clearly speak their number if they’re blocking their caller ID.

It wasn’t that long ago that there was no caller ID, so leaving a number in the voice mail (or answering machine message) was the only way to call back if you didn’t have the person’s number already.

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Lucky you.

This is how it goes - it can take DAYS to resolve this, BTW, because the docs do NOT want you to have their private number.

Doctor calls you from a blocked number, but you don't answer
Doctor leaves message to call office number
You call the office number and return the message
Doctor calls back, you ignore it.
Doctor leaves message to call office number.
You call the office number and return the message
Doctor calls back, you ignore it.
Doctor leaves message to call office number.
You call the office number and return the message
Doctor calls back, you ignore it.
Doctor leaves message to call office number.
You call the office number and return the message
Doctor calls back, you ignore it.
Doctor leaves message to call office number.
You call the office number and return the message
Doctor calls back, you ignore it.
(again and again and again)

And it can be prevented by just answering your phone if you know your doc is trying to get in touch with you - simple, easy, common sense. You can't be scammed by a caller if you hang up and don't talk to them. Scammers don't get magic access to your phone or person through a connected call.

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No, because I answer the phone. It would only happen if I missed the call.

This problem isn't limited to blocked caller ID. They could just as easily call from the office number and return calls still go to voicemail.

I'm not afraid of being scammed. But junk calls are a major pain in the ass.

Nonetheless, the only calls I don't answer are numbers very similar to my cell number. That's a common trick by scammers.

Having caller ID is a god-send, because I know when or when not to answer my phone.

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If your doctor or veterinarian are calling from a blocked number and leaving a message, but not leaving a callback number with that message, one might question their common sense. I'd say that's true for anyone who leaves a message in conjunction with a work-related call: Leave a clear message identifying the caller and make sure to supply a callback number if you expect to be called back.

My cardinal rule about calls from blocked numbers or numbers I don't recognize: If it's actually important, they will leave a message.

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Their office number.

You call the office, leave a message, and they call back from the blocked number.

See above for how "the dance" works.

Seriously, though - it isn't like you can be scammed by just answering the damn call. Hanging up immediately is an option. Scammers don't have special hooks to attack your brains and suck them out or something. Sheesh. Answering your phone if your doc or vet or other medical person is trying to get ahold of you is simple common sense in a time of disruption.

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Anyone can fake the caller ID. That's part of what makes this scam work.

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I used to work on nortel and other pbx system. If you have a PRI, you can pretty much write the last 7 digits to be whatever you want. We used to have a lot of fun back in the day..

Its carrier dependant but now with everything digital, VoIP has even made it easier.

I really wish they would extend E911 to become E411 . It would be nice to have a 'registry' of valid numbers. You already have to register your mobile or VoIP with E911, why not use that database to be valid, real numbers too? Your phone could even flash **VERIFIED** when they call so you know its a real person and not a spam call.

It wouldn't stop all spam but at least would give places like Swirl's Vet or my Doctor's numbers some validity that it's probably something you want to pick up.

They're trying to fix this finally:
https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/spoofing-and-caller-id

As with email spam legislation, which did absolutely nothing than cause spammers to find ways of legally sending their trash (now with legal disclaimers in the footer), I'll believe it when I see it.

The problem isn’t that particular number. It’s Caller ID in general. There’s no security to prevent scammers from forging their number.

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Anyone mailing a letter can put whatever they want in the return address corner of the envelope, just as anyone sending e-mail can put whatever they want in the “from” field, just as anyone making a phone call can put whatever they want in the caller ID field. None of these are problems requiring urgent solutions; there are authentication schemes that can be applied to all three technologies

I think scam calls do need an urgent solution. My phone is ringing all day with them. The design of the telephone system prevents the authorities from catching these scum who prey on the elderly and naive.

I stand by my opinion, however, that the best way to avoid falling victim to scam calls is by not answering the telephone, at all, if one sees a name, phone number, or place that they do not recognize come up on their caller ID box.

I don't accept live calls at all, they go directly to voice mail without ringing the phone. The exception is close relatives, who are on a whitelist.

The voicemail message directs people to send me email or a text if they want to get in touch.

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There is no such thing as "suspending a social security number". Nobody should fall for this. Tell him he should suspend his face.

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I’d love to not pay taxes.

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Just don't ask to ever use or receive anything those taxes pay for - like roads, utilities, benefits, etc. You'll have to stay in your house, shut off your water, electricity, etc. and live off your own land, though.

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Or try to get a new job, bank account, line of credit...

I used to never answer calls from anyone not in my Contacts, but now, because pandemic, I answer all calls, regardless of being in my Contacts or not, because contact tracing. Interestingly, spam calls, political polls and other scam calls, at least for me, is nearly non-existent.

On more than one occasion, I've gotten texts and calls back from people who insisted I called them when I had not, and it wasn't my mind playing tricks because my call log had no record, either. My number has been used by spammers. Yet, I refuse to have it changed. It's my number.

I also happen to have a Cambridge cell phone number. I never lived in Cambridge. I first got this number with my first cell phone at the Watertown Arsenal Mall when I was living in Jamaica Plain. I now live on the North shore. None of that matters, but anyway, if I call you, it will be ID'd as Cambridge, whether it's legit or someone else spoofing my number. And I have no idea why Cambridge numbers are so popular with spammers.

to the appropriate Nigerian Prince or the Giuliani Computer Repair company.

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Because apparently I've been money laundering in Mexico and I hung up before he could demand $18,000 in Applebee's gift cards.

And said she was in Dorchester. What are the odds?

... anyone else from transmitting their number in caller ID? (And if not, why not?)

Well, for one thing, there's not just "the" phone company. It's an open network. The caller ID system was designed with the assumption that you could trust the originator of the call to use an honest number, but that's obviously not happening in practice.

For landlines, most of the broken-up AT&T recombined, then absorbed GTE, resulting in (new) AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink.

For mobile, we're down to AT&T, Verizon, the newly combined T-Mobile-Sprint, and US Cellular.

That's just 5 companies. Couldn't the Cambridge police obtain a court order demanding that all of them block anyone else from sending their number as caller ID?